The thrompon election in the three thromdes of Thimphu, Gelephu and Phuentsholing are over completing the first leg of the much-awaited local government elections.
Thimphu re-elected their former thrompon unanimously and Gelephu voted in the former chief engineer of the thromde. In Phuentsholing, the excitement was watered down when the former thrompon was disqualified. The other contestant narrowly managed to win on the “Yes” and “No” votes.
There were no major issues as of last night and the first phase of the local government has passed without any problems. While we wait for the petition period and the thrompon elects to join office, there are lessons we could learn to make the next phase or phases smoother.
One common issue was not having the voter photo identity card that many forgot to collect or bring to the polling station. After waiting for hours, some were sent home, as they couldn’t vote with their citizenship identify card. Relatives and friends of candidates were handy in rushing to election offices and collecting the cards.
But that is a one-time solution. The election commission of Bhutan had been educating voters and this is not the first election. Voters should be well aware of the importance of the card. As the ECB prepares for the next round of election, this could be a good lesson to prepare the voters in advance. As it is we are already seeing poor voter turn out. Working together with local government to ready voters could improve the turnout even if those returning from polling stations are not huge in numbers.
As expected, the turnout was far better than at the zomdus, but it was not encouraging still. Thimphu recorded only 31 percent. It is a shame indeed.
For whatever reasons, the majority of the thromde’s voters chose not to vote. One reason that is unofficially discussed was that the election was boring because there were no contestants. And the election commission is blamed for not announcing the election dates as they were expected to do. ECB denies it.
Phuentsholing saw the highest turnout. Almost an equal number of the 487 voters came to vote “No” for the lone candidate after the former thrompon was disqualified. He won by only nine more “yes” votes. Those who came to exercise their franchise should be commended even if there was only a lone candidate. Even in Thimphu there were about 150 people who voted “No”.
An unfounded concern both among voters and election officials is making the details of the “Yes” and “No” votes public. They fear repercussions from the elected officials. This is petty. Elected leaders are to represent their people and should think beyond their constituency. They should appreciate people exercising their franchise.
If an elected official starts differentiating, he or she is not suited to lead. He should work hard to win the trust of those who have not voted for him. That would be a big achievement.