An impressive voter turnout of almost 83 percent at the postal ballot facilitation and mobile booths indicates that people take the general elections seriously.
With the whole democratic process set into motion as a mandate from the throne, the participation of the people in the electoral process is crucial for Bhutan. The number of registered female voters is higher than male and even though more female voters did not vote at the facilitation booths, they still outnumbered male voters in 16 dzongkhags. Of the 17,534 who did not vote, 9,407 were female voters.
Among the dzongkhags, Thimphu saw the least voter turnout at 80.14 percent. More than 7,000 voters did not turn up to cast their ballots in the capital, the country’s melting pot where we say that the literate and the informed live. This is a matter of concern. We must address this apathy among our urban voters.
Although postal voters make up about 30 percent of the total registered voters, postal ballots have played a critical role in determining the outcome of elections in the country. It was postal votes that ousted the ruling party out of the race in the primary round. Candidates have lost and won due to postal votes in the past elections. The civil servants, who make up the highest number of postal voters, are today referred as the forty-eighth constituency. Its importance in shaping election outcomes could be the reason why numerous allegations of colleagues and seniors in organisations influencing postal votes surface every election cycle.
Social media fora are inundated with these allegations even though the election commission has repeatedly assured voters that their ballots are secret and secured with party representatives witnessing the whole segregation process.
The commission’s decision to publicly reprimand DPT’s Dramedtse-Ngatshang candidate through the media for instigating voters to make false statement of identity and work place to avail of postal ballot facility should assure skeptics that the commission does not tolerate any attempts to manipulate the postal voters.
The temptation to question the secrecy of the ballots and the election machinery stems often from our lack of understanding the processes and technology. The slew of allegations and criticisms flowing in during the election period has made us both suspicious and bolder. With politicking getting dirtier by the day, many are hoping for it to be over soon.
It will be in few days. Today is the last day of campaign for the candidates. The black out period is the time for the candidates to rest or pretend to and voters to reflect on the events that unfolded over the campaign period. It is time to return to the polls once again. It is time for the nation to make an informed choice.