The turnout for the upcoming National Council Elections may be affected by recent changes by the Election Commission such as doing away with mobile voting booths and postal ballots being offered to only a small group of Bhutanese citizens living abroad, despite a considerable increase in the Bhutanese diaspora in recent times.

Many voters may think that the right to vote is merely to elect a candidate. However, we must remember that voting has far-reaching consequences in both the short-term and long term. His Majesty the Great Fourth said has sown the seeds of democratization and it is our duty to ensure that the roots of democracy take strong and unshakable hold in our nation and ensure that it will not just benefit this generation but generations into the future.

  Protecting these sacred duties, Article 7 of our Constitution guarantees numerous fundamental rights from free speech, expression, and opinion to the right to information to peaceful assembly. But these rights can be ensured only by way of carefully exercising the “right to vote.” Otherwise, other fundamental rights are “only illusionary.”

 Wesberry said: “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws.” The right to vote is “the most important politically expressive activity.”  Voters “indicate their desire to have a particular person in a position of power.”  Bhutan’s democracy is also “founded upon the notion that every vote counts” where voter decide one’s future.

 Further, the Constitution empowers that “Bhutan is a sovereign country and sovereign power belongs to Bhutanese.” Thus, the onus is on the voters to determine Bhutan’s democratic path.  A scholar said that “voting represents the purest act of self-governance. Another scholar said by voting, each person makes a personal choice about who best can represent his or her interests in the government. Rights inherent in protecting individual autonomy and self-governance are properly construed within the right to vote.

His Majesty during the inaugural Session of the 87th the then, National Assembly in 2007 said: “Many important historic undertakings that will have a lasting impact on our country are here before us.  Every Bhutanese citizen above 18 years, who are eligible to cast their vote, should exercise the franchise and ensure that they don’t shy away from this momentous responsibility.”

 His Majesty further said:  “There are more than 18 million residents in New Delhi and Tokyo has more than 13 million, while our entire country’s population is just over 660,000. Bhutan has one MP for 9,000 citizens. In many countries, elected representatives will never get to know all their people, even if they spend an entire lifetime trying to do so. It is not a question of whether we can do something, whether we have enough or not, or whether we are permitted. The question is, are we going to do it or not.”

 Therefore, our elected members are expected to do much better than MPs in other nations. Participating in the voting of our election is not just individual duty but also contributes to fulfilling His Majesty’s vision.  Electing the wrong people to power can ruin the people and nation and its future.

 Let’s vote in the upcoming National Council Elections to elect the best choices.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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