As the third National Assembly election draws nearer, we look at by how much we have matured in a decade-old democracy. Although our march with the change in a governance system could be measured in terms of our confident strides and determined objectives over a long period of time starting with the gradual phasing in of decentralisation process way back in the early 1980s, to say that we hit the ground running and made a go of it without any spanner in the journey would be wrong.
Far from it. What made our narrative worthy of international praise though has been the extraordinary sangfroid and climate of peace and tranquillity with which we moved on. The advent of democracy so is more than just a gift from the Throne to the people of Bhutan. It is the responsibility bestowed upon the citizens this side of the sunny street to shape their own future and that of the nation’s with pride and strong sense of independence.
How have we as citizens taken this responsibility, however?
Adult franchise is a sacred responsibility in a democracy. To vilify or to make a joke of it is unbecoming of the people who stand to represent the voters. We are talking about horse treading during the elections. This has been happening because laws in their sanctified greatness allow it even as common sense does not. The point is, by allowing it, what amount of seriousness is given to the power of the electorate?
People choose a political party based on their ideology. In Bhutan where ideologies do not separate one party from the other, elections are about leadership and the credibility of the representatives. But when a person can jump from one party to the other depending on the election result, what amount of credibility is put on display? Because some parties brushed aside the warning for their political expediency in the past, they are haunted by it this day. People see some parties as one in different names.
Who is gaining and who is losing?
The National Law Review Taskforce has suggested amendment of the Election Act 2008 to stop parties from trading candidates after the primary election. The findings and the arguments are sound and fair. We can ill afford to not take a blind bit of notice.
It might not happen all of a sudden, not this election season certainly, but recommendations of the taskforce is worth studying carefully. It is about the health of our democracy. Elections are about people and their aspirations. Respect for their choice cannot be made a mockery.