Druk Phuensum Tshogpa will suggest six new polling stations in urban centers for the ‘convenience’ of civil servants for 2013 elections. Critics says this is to prevent civil servants from influencing rural voters.
The government of the day has plans to suggest to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) to open six new polling stations in urban areas for convenience of civil servants who it reckons has to go through much hassles to cast a vote.
“We’re planning to suggest six new polling stations to the ECB for the convenience of the civil servants. They will be situated in urban centers accordingly,” said a high ranking cabinet official.
The move although wrapped in the guise of ‘convenience’ is likely to be viewed from many quarters with strategic Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) maneuvers greasing toward an end result that favorably works to the party’s end goal of 2013 elections.
Most have accepted that in 2008 civil servants did influence the rural electorate to decide the outcome and play a part in DPT’s landslide victory.
In that light of matters it is possible that the move will prevent civil servants to move out of their stations to go and influence the rural voting complex, in the villages.
As the first party or person to instantly ricochet a reaction the Opposition leader is for a change in favor of this little introduction suggested by the government.
“The opposition party supports any initiative that encourages and makes it easier for more people to vote. Citizens have a fundamental right to vote – exercising that right is important for the integrity of our democracy, so we must make it as convenient as possible for all citizens to vote,” said Opposition Leader (OL) Tshering Tobgay.
The players in heat for the big 2013, aspiring parties welcomed the move but not without a pinch of salt from their own camps.
Interim President of Bhutan Kuengyam Party (BKP), Sonam Tobgay said “I think this is a very good idea, it will cut cost at the household and national level. I support this innovative idea and urge people to take advantage of the arrangement”.
Asked his opinion on the 2008’s purported civil servant influence which decided the election outcome in the context of the 2013 race, BKP Interim President said “things have changed since 2008, this time around one has to strategize more intelligently”.
On the other hand, Interim President of DCT Lily Wangchhuk said that “people are better informed this time which will enable them to make informed choices so it may not have much impact on the outcome of the elections”.
“This is an excellent idea which will certainly encourage higher voter turnout. However, this facility should be extended to all Bhutanese citizens who may be allowed to vote from their place of residence rather than place of registration,” said Lily Wangchhuk.
A former Editor, Kinley Tshering said the government’s suggestion or move can very possibly be viewed both in good and bad light.
He said while the addition of these six new stations can look to be a reason and source of convenience for civil servant voters who can forego the three or four days travel time to visit polling stations, the fact won’t change that civil servants will sway the elections either ways like in 2008.
“So, if we take this argument, definitely, it is a calculated move to refrain civil servants from influencing rural voters,” he said.
The Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008, under Electoral offences, Chapter 21, ‘Government Servants not to Act for Candidates or to Influence Voting’ stated:
“No person in the service of the Government shall in the conduct or management of an election do any act other than the giving of vote for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of a candidate.” And “Any person who contravenes the provisions of section 542 shall be guilty of the offence of felony of the fourth degree.”