As our democratic journey progresses, the principles that underpin a fair and transparent electoral system must be at the forefront of our collective consciousness. The upcoming elections present the right moment to reflect on the values that guide our democracy and the need for a level-playing field for all political actors.

The electorate plays a pivotal role in the democratic process. It is imperative for voters, therefore, to approach the upcoming elections with a discerning eye, critically evaluating the commitment of candidates to the principles and policies they advocate.

In a democracy, “candidate debates” are intended to provide voters with a platform to understand the positions, policies, and capabilities of each candidate. The debates are a crucial component of the democratic process, allowing voters to make informed decisions based on the candidates’ ideas and qualifications.

However, if winning parties engage in horse-trading, where candidates may switch parties post-debate, this should call into question the sincerity of the candidates’ positions and the value of the debate.

The trend of “horse-trading”, where candidates readily switch parties based on “winnability”, raises concerns about the authenticity of political convictions. The concern is that if candidates are easily swayed by the prospect of joining a winning party, it may undermine the democratic process by diminishing the significance of party ideologies and the candidates’ commitment to those ideologies.

The real danger is that this reality could create a situation where candidates prioritise personal gain over the principles and policies they presented during the campaign.

As voters, we have the right to demand consistency and sincerity from our representatives to ensure that those elected genuinely represent the values they uphold during the election campaigns.

Debates, an essential component of the electoral process, must not be reduced to mere theatrical performances. In an ideal democracy, voters are valued, and their decisions are based on the information and choices presented to them during the election process.

Voters should view debates as a platform to gauge the depth of a candidate’s understanding of the issues, the strength of their principles, and their commitment to the welfare of the nation.

Candidates who easily switch parties after expressing strong opposition to the views of another party during public debate undermine the very essence of democratic debates.

Our voters, therefore, should be cautious and prioritise candidates who embody consistency, integrity, and a genuine dedication to public service.

More importantly, the Election Commission of Bhutan plays a pivotal role in upholding the sanctity of the democratic process. As the guardian of free and fair elections, the Commission must be vigilant in ensuring that our electoral laws and regulations are fair and transparent.

The Commission should consider reviewing and strengthening regulations related to party switching, imposing clear guidelines and consequences for candidates who change parties during or after elections. This is essential to prevent opportunistic manoeuvres that undermine the democratic values that the voters hold dear.

The Commission should actively enforce codes of conduct for political parties and candidates, penalising those who violate ethical standards or engage in deceptive practices. We expect so much more from the Commission.

A fair electoral system is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, which ensures that the will of the people is accurately reflected in the composition of the government.

To maintain public confidence in the democratic process, it is crucial that the Commission remains impartial and that voters demand accountability from their elected representatives.

As our democratic experiment matures, let us collectively reaffirm our commitment to the principles of fairness, transparency, and integrity.