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The stage is all set. The election machinery, including officials, is ready. The 127 National Council member aspirants, including six women, have done their homework and campaigning.

This morning Bhutan will go to the polls to elect their representative to the National Council. There are 432,030 eligible voters. Women outnumber men although there are only six women contestants.

The mandate this time is on the people, the eligible voters who would represent the other half of the population. With experience of two parliamentary elections, Bhutanese voters are experienced and wiser. The expectation is most of them will turn up to the polling station to exercise their franchise.

From the experience of the nomination process, the turn out is not encouraging. In most gewogs, not even 50 percent of the eligible voters came to vote. Those who have toured the country opine that the preliminary round has not excited the voters. The Council election is not as exciting as the Assembly elections. We expect some people to wait for the final round, today.

The National Council is an important house. Apart from its legislative powers, the Constitution conferred the power of review upon the National Council. The members of the house will be confronted with the challenges of reviewing important legislations that will affect the people and the country. Therefore, they should have, in the words of the Chairman of the Constitution drafting committee, Former Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye, the highest intellectual integrity, legal talent and political wisdom available besides being non-partisan. The National Council is also the refuge of the people.

The 127 candidates are all qualified and experienced with diverse background and expertise. They are well versed in the role and importance of the house. Competing for the third National Council elections, they have reference to make, lessons to learn and mistakes to avoid. In the common forums and the debate, they have all made their mark. The 20 dzongkhags will choose 20 representatives to represent them regardless of the size and population of the dzongkhag.

Given the importance of the house, there is an expectation that people will come out to select the best candidate. There is plenty of choice this time with some dzongkhags fielding more than a dozen candidates. There is no reason for Bhutanese to not come out and vote. The poll day is not a working day. This is to encourage people to go to the polls. The Election Commission has addressed some of the issues voters faced like instituting the postal ballot facilitation centre.

Most important, ours is a free and fair election. In some countries, people cannot go to the pooling booth because of the fear of attack, coercion or intimidation. The aspiration is beyond just going to the polls. It is knowing on what grounds a voter is voting for a candidate. The choice we make today will reflect in the discourse of the august National Council hall.

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