Thimphu’s population is 114,551. Yet, as Thimphu heads for the third thromde election on April 28, there are only 8,007 registered voters.
And, likewise, Phuentsholing’s resident number is 27,658 (according to the population and housing census of Bhutan 2017), but the city has only 932 registered voters. In Gelephu, the number of city resident is 9,858, but the number of registered voter is 1,542.
The number of registered voters is according to the Election Commission of Bhutan’s Electoral Roll issued last Sunday, March 28.
Having come so far with democracy and local government elections, the people are asking valid questions as to for whom the elections should happen. For example, the world over, residents vote for their representatives.
This does not happen in Bhutan. So, what are the consequences?
“What happens here is maximisation of land and increasing profits for landowners, while critical services in the city diminishes,” a city resident said.
City planning has been a major failure, starting from Thimphu. Bajothang in Wangdue and Khuruthang in Punakha are living examples of town planning that could have been models for township development in other parts of Bhutan.
“What the whole election process doesn’t give us is the space to say what we want as residents of the town,” said Karma from Gelephu. “Our towns are growing physically, perhaps, but vital services are decreasing.”
Town and city residents say that the thromde election should be about building community vitality.
“Only residents know what is needed. Majority of people want a liveable city with walking and bicycles trails, playgrounds, parks but residents can’t vote. Therefore, they have no say,” a Thimphu resident, said.
Pema has been living in Babesa, Thimphu for more than 20 years. She does not have civil registration or census in Thimphu. She can’t vote to elect the Thimphu thrompon. “If I’m allowed to vote, then I can choose a thrompon, who would focus on facilities and services that residents of Thimphu require. That’s probably why Thimphu is increasingly facing problem like water shortage, waste disposal and safety.”
Section 100 of the Election Act of Bhutan 2008 mandates a voter to be registered in the civil registry and have a household number of civil registration in that town for not less than one year.
The campaign for the third thromde election will start from Friday.