The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is expecting more voter turnout in the upcoming elections than what was observed in the last elections in 2013.

According to ECB officials, this is because of the vigorous voter education programme the commission is conducting across the country.

The head of Civic and Electoral Training department, Phub Dorji, said that during the previous elections, the head office in Thimphu used to send a single general standard procedure to all election officials in the dzongkhags.

“This time, every dzongkhag election office has to come up with specific strategies to increase voter turnout in their respective dzongkhags,” he said.

These strategies, according to Phub Dorji, are developed based on the population, size of the dzongkhag and the availability of communication facilities. “All these strategies are within the framework of the election commission.”

He said the strategies are developed depending on the situation of each dzongkhag. “So we believe the voter turnout would be better this time.”

One such strategy adapted in Gasa was during the highland festival where education and awareness programmes on election rules and regulation were conducted.

Phub Dorji said that distribution of pamphlets and stickers along with initiatives like health walks were also initiated by some dzongkhags to carry out voter’s education programme.

He also said age-based voter education programmes were done, which is an arrangement where only one particular age group of voters were called at a time for the programme.

ECB expects the voter turnout to increase this year, as they have also included people with disabilities (PWD).

The official said that although including PWD has been an effort since the beginning, they are putting in extra effort this time.

The commission is currently conducting voter education for the upcoming National Council (NC) elections.

Phub Dorji said it was difficult to provide the number of people the commission has reached at the moment, as they completed the first round of the programme only in few dzongkhags.

He said the commission, during such programmes, ensures that it is carried out without any trouble to the voters. “We never call voters to the gewog centres for zomdus. Our officials go to the chiwogs and sometimes even to the villages to conduct the programme as a preventive measure to avoid voter fatigue, an event we have foreseen.”

He said that by now, a majority of voters were aware of the dos and don’ts during electoral processes. “However, not all voters are same and through different media outlets like print and broadcast, we are trying to reach all the voters,” he said adding that for those without access to such media, the programme was taken to the villages.

Although voting is not mandatory, he said, people are conscious and duty-bound. “Since the majority of voters are now aware of the democratic process, we feel the voter turnout this year would increase from the past elections.”

Younten Tshedup