Rinzin Wangchuk 

Amid speculations that the voter turnout would dwindle without facilitation booths and restricted postal ballot facility, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is optimistic that their civic and voter education would enhance electoral participation and voter turnout.

To increase voter turnout, ECB officials said that they had taken several initiatives to facilitate voters to make informed decisions and choices.

The ECB will also facilitate public debates, common forums, door-to-door campaigns and smaller meetings to provide information about candidates, thereby enabling voters to make informed decisions and choices. “These platforms, in turn, facilitate enhanced electoral participation and voter turnout,” an election official said.

During the non-election period, the ECB regularly conducts civic and voter education to sensitise and create awareness on the importance of participation during elections. In November and December last year, the commission conducted civic and voter education (CVE) in preparation for the fourth parliamentary elections at the gewog and chiwog levels in all the 20 dzongkhags.

While conducting the CVE, ECB encouraged voters to participate in elections and also to stand as candidates. Prior to this exercise, in preparation for conducting CVE in the gewogs and chiwogs,ECB officials said that a training of trainers (ToT) was conducted in September 2022 for all the 20 dzongkhag officials. Based on queries and issues raised during the ToT, the officials said that written guidelines were issued to facilitate effective and uniform voter education.

Another hope is the introduction of Democracy Clubs in schools, colleges and training institutions with the aim to inculcate the importance of voting in young minds so that they will come to exercise their franchise and shoulder citizenry responsibility. The dzongkhag election offices also educated students and trainees on electoral processes and its importance during the non-election period, particularly during election of school captain and college counselors and leaders.


Civil servants can attend common forums

Unlike in the past, civil servants can now attend the common forum and public debates. According to ECB officials, just as all other citizens have the right to know their candidates, the civil servants also have the right to know their candidates.

During past elections, civil servants got to know their candidates only through limited sources, mainly, the print media or the live public debates covered by the BBSC.

“With such an arrangement in place, civil servants will be in a better position to make informed choices,” ECB officials said.

ECB also produced audio, video and print awareness materials  to encourage participation as voters and candidates in elections. Similarly, educational and awareness materials are uploaded on ECB’s website and widely shared in various social media platforms.

In order to reduce the incidence of postal ballot rejection, the ECB in 2018 and 2021 introduced demonstration videos on the step-by-step process for completing the postal ballots without making mistakes. ECB officials said that this was widely broadcast through national television and various social media platforms. “Following the institution of these measures over the years, the incidence of postal ballot rejection has substantially reduced,” an official said.