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NA elections and lessons

Every election is an experience. For a young democracy like ours, Thursday’s National Assembly (NA) election is only the third in ten years. There are though, in the wake, certainly many issues worthy of serious contemplation, lessons to take home, shortfalls on which to build upon and successes for which we must rightly congratulate ourselves.

Elections are also an expensive affair for the nation. A total of Nu 14.100 million was spent to finance the general election campaign.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa which won 30 NA seats and now will form the government and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa which won 17 NA seats and promises a strong and responsible opposition in the Parliament are the people’s choice. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the political parties, of course. As they penetrated deeper into the constituencies, campaigns became increasingly divisive and there were visible signs of fatigue in both candidates and electorate. But then, unfortunate as they are, such are things that come with elections in a democracy. If Bhutanese are today a little apprehensive about democracy and electoral processes it is because we are an idealistic people and cannot help being a little unrealistic at times.

We can, though, and should, try and avoid some of the elements that have the potential to disturb the cohesive nature of our society and threaten the peace and stability from taking root. Although Election Commission of Bhutan adjudicated disputes and addressed complaints and allegations during the election period as per the laws, we seemed ill prepared to face the challenges that social media could throw on us. During primary round, 15 facebook posts by party supporters were in breach of social media and election laws. Even though we had agreement with facebook, not all “objectionable” posts could be removed. In the general round, the number of such posts grew to 28 out of which 18 could not be removed.

Looking back, however, despite myriad challenges the October 18 election was a remarkable feat in its own right. The overall voter turnout percentage was 71.46 and we elected seven more women to the Parliament. But the biggest lesson that we learnt was that we must do all we can to provide necessary platforms and ensure that there is a level playing field so that the people do not lose trust in the integrity of the democratic system.

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