Bhutanese audiences are being bombed on a daily basis with information and pledges by aspiring candidates, political parties, party workers, etc.
The platform being used is the media, social media, informal campaigning by party workers, and ultimately as the D-Day approaches it will culminate in face to face debates in the media and repetitive speeches in hundreds of zomdus across the country.
Political parties will fight to capture the hearts and minds of Bhutanese voters, first in the primary race between the five parties followed by the final General Elections between the two shortlisted parties.
Everybody has their favorites or dark horses but as in any healthy democracy the final decision will be made at the polling booth.
However, in the meantime political parties and candidates of all hues will try and convince the voters in various ways that they are the best choice to lead the country by appealing to both the hearts and minds of voters.
The troubling track record in many developing countries in the past few decades is that people have been voting less with their mind and more with their heart. Politicians in these countries gifted with consummate political skills have the uncanny knack of pulling at the heartstrings of their voters, making party workers go mad with frenzied support and even make mass audiences weep or laugh at will.
As numerous examples have shown the same politicians who talk of the highest ideals and big promises run corrupt and inefficient governments in these countries when in power. Even then they come back to power again as they repeat the spectacular political drama during the elections. In some cases they have become virtual lifelong dictators endorsed every five years or pass on political power to their children and grand children. This has resulted in decades of broken promises and societies.
However, of late a growing regional and global trend is impatience and awareness against this type of politics mainly due to a more youthful, educated and aware demography.
As a result governments and political parties across the world including in developing countries are changing tact and focusing more on development and transparency and less on the old tricks of the game.
Bhutan which is firmly a member of the global community and affected by globalization, good or bad, is also impacted by this new wave in global politics that asks for more transparency and accountability from its leaders.
Though Bhutan may have been a latecomer to modern democracy, nevertheless, it has arrived in an organized manner, and as so often has been proven in the past it is a quick learner.
Though with a gap of just 5 years from the 2008 elections the rules of the game in the 2013 elections will be entirely different as voters have become more aware and also want more.
However, given our ground reality of a largely illiterate and in many ways rural electorate all parties and candidates, for the sake of a healthy democracy, have to appeal more to the mind and less to the heart.
It is also here that the average Bhutanese voter has to make a sound choice for the future course of the nation.
The choice for the Bhutanese electorate is either to choose going through painful decades of what other developing countries have gone through by going with their heart, or instead apply their minds and make informed choices.
Politicians of any party may make voters weep, laugh and even instill the fear of God in them to win but these are all emotions and cannot be counted on for a healthy democracy or a government that is accountable.
As Bhutanese voters we have to make the choice of whether we want to be treated as mature and thinking voters or ones that can be brainwashed once every five years and also in between.
Bhutanese voters, to make an informed choice, should open their eyes and ears and take a good hard look at the situation around them, their community and in the nation. They should develop a healthy level of cynicism and be able to filter the gold nuggets of truth from the mountains of rubble that is being thrown their way.
The choice for Bhutan in 2013 is a stark one. While it is true that we are testing out politicians, but at the same time politicians will also be studying and testing Bhutanese voters to see what their level of awareness or gullibility is.
As shown in the Anti Corruption Commission’s election television advertisement (warning against voting for corrupt candidates) the consequences of a wrong choice will have a direct impact not only on the nation but also on the quality of our lives.
“It is my theory that when the people can outwit the leader, the more respected their voices will be.”