NA Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel


Opposition Party questions electronic voting after show of hands gets approval

Yangchen C Rinzin

The National Assembly yesterday voted, through a show of hands, to pass the motion raised by a member of the opposition to increase the retirement age of all civil servants to 60 years.

That was followed by an electronic voting where 17 members voted “yes” and 17 voted “no.” Six members abstained. The House did not pass the motion with the Speaker basing the decision on the electronic voting result.

This created confusion.

The Opposition Party was not satisfied. Members of the party said that when the motion was supported through the show of hands, there was no need for electronic voting.

Opposition party’s spokesperson MP Passang Dorji said that the motion was supported based on the majority as per the Rules of Procedures (ROP) 2014 and it should be considered as passed. “The electronic voting should be null and void.”

Members voted for first submission of the motion through show of hands, which submitted that the government should institute a system of reviewing the retirement age of civil servants from time to time.

Then 35 out of 44 members voted “yes” through the show of hands for the second submission, which proposed to increase the retirement of all categories of civil servants to 60 years.

MP Passang Dorji also said that if the electronic voting result was a tie, the Speaker should cast the deciding vote. “But there is no question of a tie when everyone had supported the motion through show of hands.”

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel told Kuensel that to pass the motion there should be a majority vote which in this case did not garner a majority. He said he decided to leave the decision to the floor, which was a tie,

The Speaker said that although there is a norm where the Speaker should cast the vote in case of a tie, it is not mentioned in the ROP that the speaker has to cast the vote. “The ROP also does not mention that the speaker cannot call for electronic voting even after the show of hands.”

“It’s a prerogative of the Speaker whether to use the vote or not and by carefully looking at the discussion that took place, I decided not to vote,” the Speaker said. “I called for the electronic voting to validate and reaffirm the votes made through show of hands.”

Many were confused and shocked after some MPs who voted “yes” during the show of hands voted “no” through the electronic voting.

Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji moved the motion.

“For a country whose average life expectancy has increased over the years and is now 71.58, setting the retirement age of civil servants to 56 is too early,” MP Ugyen Dorji said. “By this, the country loses out on a pool of vastly experienced employees who could otherwise continue to work.”

There are 31,278 civil servants as of June categorised into executive and specialist who retires at the age 60, professional and management that retires at 58. Both supervisory and support, and operational categories retire at the age of 56.

Ugyen Dorji also added that the post-retirement benefit for most civil servant retirees is barely sufficient to sustain their post-retirement life apart from adding to the pool of existing unemployment.

“After the retirement, these pool of civil servants look for jobs in the market in the private sector and unemployed youth have to compete with them in the market,” he said.

Although many members agreed with the motion to institute a system of reviewing the retirement age from time to time, many disagreed for the need to increase the retirement age to 60 years.

Many instead expressed that more than increasing the retirement age, it was important to look into helping civil servants to prepare for retirement, post-retirement, housing schemes, pensions, and insurance.

“We must go beyond the age to help the retirees. The support after retirement is important, which is why we must look into providing retirement insurance,” Draagteng-Langthil MP Gyem Dorji said.

Some members said that even if the retirement age is increased, civil servants who find better opportunities outside the civil service would leave. Some cited the example of the former opposition leader who left the civil service for politics and resigned as the Leader of the Opposition Party.

“If the increase in retirement age is proposed because an individual is not financially strong by the time they retire, it means they are not financially responsible,” Tashichhoeling MP Dil Maya Rai said.

Others submitted that raising the retirement age might add to the already increasing youth unemployment issue and that they do not support the motion.

Those supporting the motion argued that civil service was not the only place to look for jobs stating that while the Royal Civil Service Commission takes in about 500 graduates every year there is more than 30,000 unemployed youth.

Dramedtse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that it was doubtful if youth would take up jobs of those retiring at 56 years, mostly at supervisory and support level while graduates look for jobs at a higher level. “So, how will the increase in the retirement age hinder unemployment? Compact and efficient civil servants should not be based on the numbers of civil servants,” he said.

Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji said RCSC takes in only graduates and youth unemployment includes those who completed class 12 and below. “The retirement age would not take away job opportunities of the youth.”