It’s an opportunity that comes once in every five years’ time, and it makes all the difference as exercising one’s franchise to vote brings in the leaders that represent the voices of the people from every corner of the country and that will ultimately address the developmental activities in the Parliament.
It is with such high hopes that voters, in the rural and urban areas, will press the button on Poll Day July 13, 2013 to support their choice of candidates and parties.
The General Election has the two winning political parties from the primary round, to contest for seats in the National Assembly (NA). The political party that wins the most seats in the NA will become the ruling party and form the Government, and the other party will be the Opposition Party.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has appointed election observers, returning officers, presiding and polling officers and counting supervisors to supervise and conduct of elections. Returning officers and assistant returning officers are responsible for guidance of elections in the demkhongs or constituencies. The presiding officers help polling officers and the election observers to observe all stages of elections in a neutral manner and report to the ECB.
A Bhutanese who is not less than 18 years of age on the qualifying date of an election and enrolled in the electoral roll of a particular demkhongs and possessing a citizenship identity card (CID) and the voter photo identity card (VPIC) can vote during the election.
A voter can vote only at a notified polling station of a demkhongs where his / her Mitsi (census) or Gung is registered for a period of not less than one year before the qualifying date, and her/his name is enrolled in the voter list. The name of the polling station designated to a voter is provided in the VPIC issued to him/her.
On the Poll Day, upon arrival at the polling station, a voter must first go to polling officer to check to see if his or her identity is listed down on the voters’ list by producing the new VIPC.
If listed, the polling officer shall call out his/her name and serial number so that polling representatives are made aware of the voter. If the identity of the voter is not challenged he/she can approach second polling officer. Second polling officer will register the voters and mark their prescribed finger with indelible ink. Voters will sign or affix thumb impression in the registered voters’ list. The officer will then give the voter a signed voter slip.
After this, the voter should take the slip to the third polling officer who files the slip and presses the ‘ballot button’ of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) while directing the voter to the voting compartment to cast his/her vote. In circumstances of the poll for manifold posts, the voter should move to the next voting compartment to cast his/her vote upon being instructed by the third polling officer.
While inside the voting compartment, a voter can press to seal a vote on his/her preferred choice of candidate or party. The voter presses the grey button on the balloting unit of the voting machine to vote electronically.
EVM is programmed to registered only one vote for each voter. When a grey button of his/her choice is pressed, a red lamp will glow against the symbol of parties he/she had chosen. At the same time a ‘beep sound’ can be heard by all, indicating that voter(s) in the voting compartment has cast his/her vote and it has been recorded. Also, the red lamp glow will go off in the control unit, indicating that the voting is done.
During the secret voting, no one is allowed to take photographs or witness a voter casting his/her votes, and even polling officials or representatives, under any pretext, is not allowed to enter voting compartments.
A physically-challenged voter that requires help will be allowed to take along a helper who must also be a registered voter during the poll day.
During the polling day, the voters must carry new VPIC and CID to the polling stations, voters should not drink, must not carry any weapons including a knife, fire lighter, etc. A voter should appear in national dress in the polling station, and should be sensitive of the timing (opening at 9 am till closing at 5 pm) during the polling day.
Although voting in Bhutan is not compulsory, however, it is the responsibility of every Bhutanese voter to exercise his/her right to vote. It gives opportunity to decide on the choice of representatives in Government and Parliament, which only comes once in every five years’ time, and therefore it’s a chance that one cannot miss.