Elections are a big affair, anywhere, anytime—because elections make democratic governance possible.
Simply put, elections allow voters to choose leaders and to hold them responsible and accountable.
As we prepare for the third thromde elections, there is a conspicuous lack of excitement. And this says a lot of things about the whole process of election, in a way that could lead to unhealthy situations in the future. Voter apathy is cancer in a system that is called democracy.
What voting gives the people is an opportunity to voice their concerns so that service delivery improves.
In the last thromde elections, only a handful of thromde residents elected the thrompons—mayors. In 2016, in Thimphu, only 2,557 voted in the thrompon election.
The same is likely to happen because the election commission goes by the book.
But times have changed and we are facing new challenges. If the law has outlived its utility, we should have the courage to propose a new one. Why not? And that responsibility falls on the election commission.
The election laws and the Constitution restrict people who live and work in the thromdes from voting for the thrompon and other thromde representatives if they do not have a census in the municipality.
There is no answer to “why or how”.
For example, Section 100 of the Election Act of Bhutan 2008 mandates a thromde election voter to be registered in the civil registry and have household number or civil registration in that town for not less than one year. To have a household number or census in the town, a voter should own land or property.
The reality is that many who own property do not have their census in the thromde. But thromde services are important to all the city residents.
This clause is redundant and must be scrapped. There have been voices from the people to change the law, repeatedly but they, unfortunately, have landed on deaf ears.
Elected representatives and legislators must take the issue to parliament.
When the majority of thromde residents have no say in the election, issues such as gaping potholes, water shortage, transport and other public facilities remain a perennial problem.
Let us cut the root and branch of the problem when we can.
Urban development is heading in a direction that can have a far-reaching impact in the future. As if we haven’t enough problems already.