ECB must do better

The third local government elections are probably the worst ever conducted by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) till date not only in terms of the delayed results, but also in its shabby treatment of the private media.

From the 2018 general elections it was amply clear that a large increase in postal ballots can lead to delayed results, but somehow ECB did not put in place precautions to ensure that the postal ballots can be counted on the evening of the vote.

The inability to foresee this led to a lot of delay and though the official results were supposed to be out by Thursday morning, people had to wait till Friday morning for the winners list, but even by as late as Friday evening the total votes Gewog wise were still not available officially.

When faced with a delay like this and mass confusion the worst thing for the ECB to do is to give out only selective information and this is exactly what it did.

For some inexplicable reason, the ECB on Wednesday and Thursday declined to share the preliminary results with this paper for wider dissemination, and only gave it to a state owned media house.

This is despite explicit requests made by this paper.

Even when the results of the winners were available by late Thursday evening it sent the results in the form of a press release again only to a state owned media house.

As of Friday evening as this paper goes to the press we are yet to receive the official results of the 2021 Local Government Elections. The ECB website still does not have the complete results down to the Gewogs as of Friday evening.

This is why this paper for the first time in its existence is unable to declare the election results of a major national election. We had the option of peeking into the state media, but we cannot rely on secondary sources of information for our readers. For this paper at least the LG elections are incomplete.

The ECB, unlike other Constitutional Bodies, prides itself in being independent from the RCSC. However, if this is the standard of performance then much thought will have to be given on who the ECB and its staff are accountable to for their actions.

The ECB should also remember that democracy does not start and end with elections, but there is much more to it.

Maybe it is time for some accountability for the ECB too.

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
Thomas Paine

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