Every Bhutanese must heed His Majesty’s call to “differentiate between those people or party, who will be able to work for the benefit and well-being of our people and country and those who will not.” As His Majesty reiterated, we must not look at the temporary and individual interests; instead, voters must prioritize the long-term common interest of the country.

As Bhutan stands on the precipice of yet another historic moment in its democratic journey, the upcoming primary round of elections is poised to shape the nation’s trajectory for the next five years. In a unique political landscape where only two parties will vie for governance after the primary round, the significance of each citizen’s vote cannot be overstated.

Democracy, as envisioned by His Majesty the Fourth King, places the destiny of the nation firmly in the hands of its people. The abdication of the Throne in 2006 marked a pivotal moment, with His Majesty entrusting the future of Bhutan to its citizens. This solemn responsibility includes the duty to elect representatives who will safeguard the nation’s traditions, culture, security, sovereignty, and overall well-being.

Elections worldwide require substantial resources. It is more so in Bhutan with state funding of the entire electoral process. Despite facing economic hardship and tight fiscal constraints, our nation allocates over half a billion ngultrum to fund this election. For our country of just about 400,000 registered voters, this equates to well over one million ngultrums spent per voter when electing representatives. Calculated on a per candidate basis, each candidate’s expenditures exceed 10 million ngultrums. This fiscal outlay is solely for conducting the election itself; over the coming five years, the state will shell out billions as their salary and allowances irrespective of who we elect.

As His Majesty wisely cautioned, “Election is the power of a citizen to select a party to form the government, who can either do good or bad to the people and the country. We must keep in mind these foundations of our nation and prevent all ethnic, religious, or political divisions in our small nation. We must participate in democracy with the spirit of harmony and fraternity.”

During the election, our people must be able to sacrifice our temporary and individual interests and think wisely for our long-term common interest of building a strong government. Thus, it is an opportunity to contribute to the selection of leaders who will navigate the nation through the intricacies of governance.

Considering the current economic challenges and the visionary goals outlined by His Majesty for Bhutan’s resilience and prosperity, the choice of the most capable political party becomes paramount. This election is an opportunity to select leaders who align with the aspirations of making Bhutan economically robust while preserving its rich cultural heritage.

In a global context where political dynamics often limit the scope for diverse governance, Bhutan has the potential to set an example of a thriving democracy. For example, many democracies are often dictated by a few political parties establishing political dynasties, Bhutan stands as a beacon of pluralism. Even the most liberal and progressive democracies like the United States, India, and the United Kingdom. Thus, it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate actively and vote wisely, placing national interest above all else. As election day approaches, let each Bhutanese embrace the power bestowed upon them and contribute to the continued success of Bhutan’s unique democratic journey.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.