22 March, 2008 – Modern political science questions whether average citizens anywhere in the world have sufficient political information to cast meaningful votes. The general consensus is that only a handful of voters are sophisticated enough to truly understand politics and to base their votes on sound political analysis.
This is somewhat of a relief as thousands of Bhutanese voters head home this weekend to influence Bhutanese history. Most of us lack a basic understanding of national issues and, in the absence of the relative ideological positions of the two parties, we have no ideological intentions as we cast our votes on Monday. In the absence of clear-cut political ideology, we have no basis to vote for issues or to support either party. Bhutanese citizens are voting for the two parties as personified by their leaders or for the local candidates. As discomforting as this may be in a political context, we have accepted this as an inevitable reality for the first general election.
The large number of people, who do not know the party leaders, or even their constituency candidates, are dependent on their families and friends and, to a greater extent, local party workers, who are trying to influence block voting.
While there has been a flurry of cross allegations in recent weeks, they have mostly been petty issues. The most significant concerns were that party workers and even candidates were spending more than the ceiling allowed by the election commission. The controversies were that some candidates were resorting to immoral means including bribery.
As citizens, we would like to believe that this is not true. We would like to believe that people, who want to lead the nation, would not start by bribing the people. As voters we should be strong enough to vote against anyone who did.
Bhutan’s general election is different from elections in other countries for a number of reasons.
To start with, our electoral process is already a success. Proven leaders of the previous government responded to the call of the times and joined politics. So did senior professionals in the bureaucracy. They made their sacrifices and we have two strong parties.
We know that both parties will come through the election with strong leaders. They will also each come through with a good number of parliamentarians. That means we are assured of good debate in parliament. In that sense, unlike many countries, we can say that democracy has won.
Now we know when, why, and how. We are just waiting to see who.
It’s better to vote for what you want and get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it