In a week’s time, Bhutanese will go to the polls to elect their councillor – the elected member to represent the people of a dzongkhag to the National Council or the upper house, as called in other democracies.

The common forums and the so-called debates are over. Candidates are ready and looking forward to the poll day. Are voters as excited as the candidates? This is a pertinent question. Beyond the villages where people or voters are in direct touch with the candidates, many voters are far removed from their candidates. With a week’s time left, some are wondering who their candidates are or even if they would want to go and vote.

Voters, there will be.  As a small and close-knit society, those standing for the election know their relatives, friends and associates will vote – through postal or at the polling stations. Transportation will be arranged and an opportunity to come and visit their village and relatives, empty or few it may be, will be attractive.

The mood, however, is that voters are tired even before the fourth National Council elections begin. Practically, it will be both expensive and time-consuming if not cumbersome for some. Bhutanese are politically aware or aspiring candidates make it so to make our elections competitive. But going by what many say, voters are already fatigued.

The big question is how can the National Council members benefit people.  Voters know it well. Unlike members of the ruling or even the opposition party, members of the House of Review cannot make pledges. This was one clear message during the NC debates when moderators pressed aspiring candidates on how they would “serve the voters.”

To the average voter, serving the people means bringing changes to daily lives through policies or legislation. Not to demean the National Council, the House of Review can only review laws and policies. In some cases, they can only recommend, meaning, it is up to the National Assembly or the ruling party to make policies or pledges, realistic to voters or fulfill their promises.

Fifteen years after transitioning to a democracy, voters are convinced that all that glitters is not gold. They have seen political parties and councillors come and go. They have also witnessed that not all promises are kept. The message that voters should understand voting, as well as the purpose of voting, is not received well. Voters know that a lot of what is said is mere khakam (lip services).

Then come the rules or policies that restrict participation in the electoral process. Many are waiting to see if this year’s NC election will see the lowest voter turnout. If the postal ballot facility is restricted, doing away with the facilitation booths, many say, is discouraging people to take part in the elections.

Then there is the pressure on all sectors, except the private sector, to change what is business as usual and perform to make profits or cut costs. Many managers are already worried if offices should be closed for a week to facilitate voting or go against election laws to drive performance and deny people the right to take leave for elections. A bigger concern is if elected leaders, NC or NA are making any differences.