Democracy requires informed participation by all the citizens

The voters are the key ingredient in the institution of democracy since it is through their participation and consent, by way of votes, that brings in new candidates and a new government.

Therefore, voters must be educated and well-informed in every aspect of democracy and elections, in particular, the voting process and electoral enrollment.

“Dasho Dzongda plays a vital role in educating voters,” media focal person of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) Sherub Zangpo said.

A voter must carry his/her Voter Photo Identity Card (VPIC) and Citizenship Identity Card (CID) to the polling stations. A citizen who is not younger than 18 years of age and enrolled in the electoral roll in a particular Demkhong and possessing VPIC is eligible to vote.

A voter cannot vote in more than one place, or in more than one Demkhong (constituency) for the same elections. This also means that postal voters who have applied for postal ballots cannot vote in-person at polling stations.

A postal ballot is the system of casting a vote through post. He or she has to register as postal voter with the ECB. An eligible postal voter must register with the Department of Electoral Registration, in the prescribed form which is available on the ECB website, or the dzongkhag election offices.

“In case of postal ballots, this time there are not many rejection, those rejected were the one who did not register as a postal voter,” said the ECB Media focal person.

“Postal ballot received from the Bhutanese working in foreign countries like India, Australia are received by Returning Officers and forwarded to designated Assistant Returning Officers, for United States of America (USA), they have appointed a separate Assistant Returning Officer. In order to not delay the postal ballots, ECB has signed a very strong bond with the Bhutan Post and extra payment of Nu 80 per mail, after they receive it they send it immediately to Returning Officers of respective constituencies,” he added.

If a person is handicapped by physically infirmities and is unable to recognize the symbols on the ballot paper to record his or her vote in the voting machine, such voters can be assisted by a companion to the voting compartments to cast their votes. However, if no person is appointed as a companion, the same role may be performed by the presiding officer.

The National Assembly (NA) elections are held in two rounds; the first round is called the primary round, where all registered parties can contest and the two parties obtaining the highest and the second highest number of valid votes will be declared as eligible to contest in the second round, the general elections.

“Highest vote means the total number of valid votes secured from the 47 constituencies,” the ECB media focal person said.

Election coordinators are appointed in order to ensure a free, fair and democratic election. To ensure the smooth flow of election norms, the Dzongdas have been appointed as chief election coordinators of their dzongkhags, the Dungpas are appointed as deputy chief election coordinators in the Dungkhags and Gewog Administrative Officers (GAO) are appointed as assistant chief coordinators in the gewogs. The 850 presiding officers and polling officers will be stationed three to four days before the poll day.

During the polling day, all the bar and shops will be closed, and the borders will be sealed on 30 and 31 May. The campaigns will halt within 48 hours prior to the hour fixed for the commencement of polls.

The poll day generally closes at 5 PM sharp, and no voters will be allowed in the polling station after the time limit. Any voter in the polling stations before such time should be given a slip so that only those present in the polling station premises on or before 5 PM can vote. When the last voter has recorded the vote, the presiding officer must close the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM); so that no further votes are recorded in the machine.

Tshering Dorji / Thimphu

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