A macho upper house, not entirely a good deal

Cartoon courtesy: Jigme Choden
Cartoon courtesy: Jigme Choden

The outcomes of the recently concluded National Council (NC) elections have been a fairly sound and comforting bases for the second round ‘successfully-conducted’ by the Election Commission (ECB).

It has in the process ensured general thoroughfare for the young Bhutanese Democracy, in terms of its growth and health. Still, and all factors withstanding, the element of gender balance so fibrously addressed back at home under the GNH umbrella may have been bruised a bit, so to say.

In the recent elections five aspiring women NC candidates stood as contestants of which some were the former NC members. The women represented their respective constituencies from Chukha, Zhemgang, Wangduephodrang and Sarpang.

It would seem from the round-up of the conclusions to the second NC elections that the male tide of winning candidates swept clean all the seats of representation and the women got none. In all fairness of the democratically-conducted elections, dutifully attended by the nation’s voters who expressed the true messages in their hearts to choose capable and worthy representatives, a side of outlook that cannot be pushed aside is the all-male representation in the upper house.

The former national council representative of Zhemgang Pema Lhamo lost after securing 909 votes, the other woman contender Yeshey Tshomo lost with total 1,219 votes that top the second highest votes.

The incumbent NC representative of Chukha Tshewang Lhamu who secured 3,680 votes also lost the elections from her constituency. Another incumbent NC representative, the Wangduephodrang NC MP Sonam Yangchen lost with 3540 votes.

This in many expressed views could end-up in a linear decision making and policy discussions process or sessions, speaking strictly in terms of inclinations. That is the buzz in and around the contemplating and politicking minds as far as the upper house should be concerned.

The National Assembly (NA) election which is around the bend should perhaps see a better turnout for the female representation.

Not that, election should be structurally mapped to achieve a gender-friendly symmetry, but it is still an aspired objective in many countries, in the fields of decision makings which will eventually affect the masses as a whole which means, both the male and female ratio.

Elsewhere outside the country, even the European Commission has long recognized the need to promote gender balance in decision-making processes and positions and the European Commission is encouraging the process by various means.

The Women’s Charter adopted by the European Commission in March 2010 and the EU Strategy for Equality between Women (2010-2015) reaffirmed the European Commission’s commitment to work to increase the percentage of women in positions of responsibility.

The European Commission’s Network to promote Women in Decision-making in Politics and the Economy have even provided a platform at EU level for discussion of successful strategies and best practice to improve gender balance in decision-making positions.

The under-representation of women in many European parliaments is considered problematic from a Democratic and human rights perspective.

The importance of this is a familiar territory in the process of democracy outside Bhutan. Many states have taken steps to improve the representation of women.

According to an online literature titled ‘Gender Balance in EU Parliaments’, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women refers to the “critical mass” of 30 to 35% women’s participation. In addition, in 1995 the Beijing Process strove for 30% women’s parliamentary representation.

The European Parliament went further in a resolution of 18 January 2001, which refers to achieving a balanced gender representation of a minimum of 40% representation of each sex in parliament.

Some European parliaments are ranked among the top democracies in the world in this respect.


The writer is the editor of the bhutanese – Sonam Pelvar

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  1. We need quota system in political game to uplift women’s participation in healthy manner.

  2. I would suggest the author to do some research on how many of the voters were women in the constituencies that had women candidates. If women are not in favor of women candidates, that shows the quality of the candidates. I would be fair that some of the women candidates were not worthy of respects. So, instead of harping on gender issues, we should encourage amiable women candidates to contest in any elections. 

  3. Like poles Repel and opposite poles attract. The votes obtained by female candidates were the ones given by male voters, as simple as that.

  4. Quota to women? For how long? Will those people elected respect considered MPs coming from quotas?

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