Elections will be here but will the right number of voters show up?

As the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) gears toward the 2013 elections stepping-up on electoral education and deploying returning officers as far as New York, the general atmosphere for the sphere of politicos remains apprehensive, especially about voter-turnout.

Talks doing the round in the circle of political enthusiasts is that, polling stations will be doubled in the capital – in all places like Thimphu, Motithang, Changangkha, Dechencholing, Babesa and many others, so that people can vote right outside their doorsteps, at full convenience.

As the 2013 elections inches closer, a voter turnout discussion becomes very inevitable.

Low voter turnout introduces concerns because voters are not always a genuine sample of the population. The number of non-voters is often greater than the margin of victory between the top candidates, suggesting that increasing mobilization could change electoral outcomes.

“Voter education and information program will help turnout. Media can motivate them as well. Parties, candidates and supporters can help. Election campaign will make a big difference,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Dasho Kunzang Wangdi.

The 2008 voter turnout as interpreted by a political analyst was mainly because people thought voting was something ‘compulsory’.

On similar lines of contemplation, the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) president Lily Wangchuk, suggested that ‘voting be made compulsory’ which she says might not happen overnight but can be done and should be deliberated in the parliament.

“The issue with making it a compulsion to vote is anti-thetical,” said Lily Wangchhuk.

Looking at socio-economic factors, the larger sement of society voting are civil servants. Most of the educated voters say that they will not be voting in 2013, so if right ‘civic education’ is instilled in them as well, the informed choice of choosing candidates will be better.

“No voters will have to walk more than three hours to the polling stations,” said the Election Commissioner in an earlier interview to this paper.

Low turnout can also be attributed to arrays of factors such as transportation, economic, demographic, technological and institutional factors – there is also no denying that ‘free to vote’ and not as a compulsion might as well hinder turnout as even country like Australia has made it ‘compulsory to vote’.

“ECB should make it as ‘convenient’ as possible, more polling stations and most are hand-to-mouth earners, so three times voting is not a joke if one has to make a three day journey,” said a media expert.

He also added that voting will be during the monsoon, so this factor as well should be taken into account.

The government will propose to ECB for six new polling stations in the urban areas so that people working away from home can vote at their convenience right at their doorsteps, said a top-level source in the government.

One problem in the 2008 elections was ‘negative voting’ pointed out political analysts while in 2013 elections, there are ‘more choices, more political choices’ remarked the Opposition Leader, Tshering Tobgay, on his comment about more political parties getting registered with ECB.

The flipside is that the ‘a poll with very low turnout may not be an accurate reflection of the will of the people’ said a senior civil servant in foreign ministry.

Another way to increase turnout is “through repeated public service announcements appealing to the electorate’s patriotic duty in a country where democracy is just five years old,” said Nathaniel Johnson, Editor, AFP News.

More importantly, he thinks that “people are more likely to turn out if they have been shown that they have a real stake in the outcome of the vote, that the election has the potential to change their lives for the better”.

He also reminded that informing voters of what the consequences of the election is the responsibility of the media.

It becomes the job of the media for wide dissemination of electoral processes and education, Lily Wangchuk said.

She believes that civic education could as well erase fragmentation of family lines while voting and advocate on importance of voting.

On similar lines, News Editor of Kuensel, Samten Wangchuk said that ‘doing articles’ is one way media can help for better turnout.

Another concern that Lily Wangchuk raised was that the postal ballot voting’s deadlines should be extended as postal ballot is one of the major factors that matters most in elections.

“There is only 14 days to go for postal voters,” said Lily Wangchuk where people live away from the country, it might take time for them.

As a general agreement that strengthening democratic institutions will gain better voter turnout, Sonam Tobgay, BKP President said that the ‘democratic institutions should be very impartial in disseminating information and it will encourage not only voting but pluralism as well’.

Other factors he said were ‘convenience of polling stations’.

About the huge number of postal ballots rejected in 2008 for filling errors and wrong addresses, Editor Samten Wangchuk was of the opinion that “ECB is bit stringent about it when Bhutanese people are heedless to details and they are also very laid-back”.

 

Puran Gurung/Thimphu

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Yes,Ms Lily I am not going to vote to any parties.
    These days every donkeys are becoming Politician in Bhutan and everyone wants to fill their pocket.
    So,tell me why should I vote.You will also do the same if you are elected.First you will make way for you and your family and comes to public if there is any remaining.

  2. Hello
    can any one say about Lilly Wangchhuk, (DCT) president and Sonam Tobgay, BKP President background……. they are the presidents of registered parties and we do not know about: what kind of jobs they did, qualifications, family background, education, home towns, etc….seriously i haven’t heard of them before… now they r presidents…. without knowing them how can a voter vote???….

  3. The voters turn-out during this election would be vastly determined by how inspirational and motivational the current elected MPs and government had been. But sadly, we haven’t seen any positive development brought about in the country. Conversely, they spent most to their time debating and revising their perks and other financial benefits. This time i am reluctant to spend my hard earned saving to vote for the dumb ass to the post of MPs and Dashos….Anyway, what difference going to make. The economic and social condtions would remain as bleak and today or may even get worse. So i find no motivtion in voting. I find it more of waste of time.

  4. Lily’s ideas of making voting compulsory is a  communist method and a communist agenda; that is a sign of a dictatorial leadership and authoritarian regime. Her impulsive thought with comments of this nature is a characteristic of herself and her belief as an Individuald. This kind of belief and thought from a person willing to lead citizens and a tiny natio  is very very dangerous. We might lose the country. 

    Due to such impulsive behaviors by decision makers in he past, Bhutan is still poor and people have been living  in poverty; majority of the population less than a dollar per day. Please no more of these type of people. Why in such a small nations as our, we are more poor than ought to rich in any form given all the opportunities. This is due to the inabilities of people making decisions for citizens; their inabilities to lead the citizens.

    I dare say that I am disgusted by this kind of impulsive proposal from her; am more worried now that we may vote this kind of impulsive people as the leader of this country.

  5. yes voting is important an basic right for all citizen and all must vote responsibly….but we should be cautious of those tom dick and harry becoming politician…we should weed out those looking for job in politics and go for real good one who meet most criterias including character and past records of the candidate . if the trend of winning for these useless candidates become a norm based on party president then we will see either an autocratic democracy or absolute democracy with lots of corruption.That willl be no good for our future. 2013 is the time to see and make sure we select and vote for the right candidates. We must believe in collective responsibility. If we make same mistake again then we are all fool.

  6. Unpatriotic patriot and greedy slammers of the rationale should be endowed with a boon adjudicate his mind. Nation seeks hardworking, dedicated and sincere non-politicizing straightforward person in the arena and no matter he is wearching for jobs in politics or ppolitics in jobs, it is the blood in his veins that works not our guess.

  7. I dont read lily is compelling everyone to vote, rather she commented on it, perhaps you have a preconcieved attitude, least useful.

  8. Had there been pro-people democracy in here, everyone would use truly right to vote in real sense  and choose the right leader. But, the so called gifted-democracy has no meaning at all other then making elites richer overnight. In democracy leader listens public opinion. In Bhutan leader listens what elites say.

    Democracy in Bhutan is:      FOR THE ELITES, OF THE ELITES AND BY THE ELITES

    People want :                       FOR THE PEOPLE, OF THE PEOPLE AND BY THE PEOPLE.

    Wait and see what will be the fate of around 80,000 Bhutanese who were denied voting rights during the last dramatic election. 

  9. Glorified Clerk

    Compulsory voting! what a joke? give me break madam Lily.

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