Elections are the foundation of the Bhutanese Parliamentary Democracy. It is anchored on free, fair, impartial and periodic elections to be conducted by independent and impartial electoral machinery: the Election Commission. The conduct of free, fair and impartial elections depends upon three variables: namely independent and impartial electoral machinery; independent political parties and candidates; and the electorate. Besides, adult franchise, free, fair and periodic elections, and independent election machinery are prominent features of the Bhutanese democracy.
The Election Commission must realize the mandate of the Constitution and aspirations of the people to circumvent corrupt electoral practices, electoral offences, money and muscle power, and misuse of public authority and machinery. The enforcement of these ceremonious expressions of good faith is conferred to an impartial constitutional office. The Commission has requisite power to ensure that enrollment is open to all eligible voters and that casting of a vote is a reasonably accessible process. The Constitution confers universal adult suffrage, so that each and every qualified citizen is able to participate in forming the Government of choice. Every citizen should be given the opportunity, as a right, to express his or her views and desire. No person should use coercion and intimidation or deny freedom of the voters in making their choices. Finally, there has to be a system and stipulated time to ensure that votes are counted fairly and accurately. Therefore, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, decreed that:
“The office of the Election Commission is a very important Constitutional post and it is imperative to build a strong foundation for implementing the functions of this post while we are in the process of establishing democratic practices and norms in our country. The Chief Election Commissioner must carry out his responsibilities with the highest level of loyalty and dedication to the Government and the people without any distinction or discrimination between regions, Dzongkhags and Gewogs, and establish a strong electoral system for the present and future interest of the country.” 164
The Chief Election Commissioner is the instrument of democracy with fidelity to the Constitution professed through his Oath of Office. His actions and philosophy should be democratic and conscience of public confidence. His power starts with the dissolution of the Government and ends with installment of the new Government.
Contributed by Sonam Tobgye, Thrimchi Lyonpo
To be continued
161 Desk Review of Bhutan’s Draft Constitution with Respect to Parliamentary, Electoral and Political Party Systems by Dr Benjamin Reilly on 2 June 2005 for UNDP.
162 Public consultation in Sarpang on 11/2/2006.
163 Public consultation in Bumthang on 21/5/2006.
164 Kasho of 31st December, 2005.