In the spirit of free and fair elections, the Election Commision of Bhutan has arranged an assistant returning officer (ARO) in Perth, Western Australia where a sizable Bhutanese population live. The ARO will ensure that no voter is left out from Down Under for the upcoming bye-election in Bumthang.
The number of voters are insignificant to some. There are only about 100 voters in Australia from the 132 who registered for postal ballot. But in an election, every single vote counts.
The ECB finding the solution may not only ally fears of missing out on voting or votes, but ensures that every voter is given the right and the facility to exercise her or his franchise. It is a pandemic time and there are hurdles. We could have easily blamed on the problems that are out of our hands, the cost involved in appointing an ARO and a small election machinery and gone on ahead, but the votes matter and the ECB had rightly found a solution.
The Chhokhoer-Tang election is a bye-election and so the excitement level may not be as high as the general elections, but the importance cannot be undermined. We have seen how one vote can change the result of an election; we have also experienced how postal ballot voters matter in our election. Some parliamentarians would not have been elected if not for the postal ballots.
The concern and demand for voting facilities also indicate the political maturity among our people. It is encouraging to see people demand the facilities so that they are also counted in. A decade ago, it was the opposite. If candidates contested only on the “behest” or “request” of the “meser (people),” then, today they are wooing voters with promises and pledges.
A few years ago, we were after voter education. Right to vote and the responsibility to vote were common subjects . We are like the two US presidential candidates still urging the people to come out and vote.
Voters too are wary and even divide. Some are looking beyond the profile of the candidates or their pledges. Others want to know what political ideology candidates are promoting. Some are questioning what the candidates can do for them. In short, in a region where politicians are often not trusted our voters are questioning the credibility of leaders. The favourite phrase “bridge between people and government”, fall short in convincing many voters.
As the bye-election approaches, we applaud ECB for finding a solution, the candidates for offering choices to the people, and the voters for demanding and excercising their rights. So it should be because these are the critical elements that foster true democracy.