General rounds show higher voter turnout in the elections
Bhutan’s three parliamentary elections from 2008 till 2018 show that the people of Bhutan have been voting responsibly and the voter turnout in all the general rounds is higher than during the primary rounds. This is evident from the records of the past three elections.
The first democratic election in 2008 had no primary round but the general round saw a voter turnout of 79.4%.
The 2013 and 2018 general rounds saw more number of voters as compared to the primary rounds.
In 2013 primary election, the voter turnout was 55.27% while in the general round it rose to 66.13%. This was an increase of almost 11%.
A total of 381,790 registered voters comprising of 187,195 (49.22%) male and 193,875 (50.78%) female was the final electoral roll from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB). Of the 211,018 total voter turnout in the primary round, 173,075 votes were cast through EVM across 850 polling stations and the remaining 37,943 by means of postal ballot.
In the general round, there were a total of 381,790 registered voters from which, 252,485 voters came out to cast their votes: 208,226 voted via EVM while 44,259 voted through postal ballots.
For the 2018 primary election, the voter turnout was 66.36% and the general round saw 71.46% voter turnout, an increase of 5.1%.
The third parliamentary election saw 438,663 total registered voters with 214,113 male and 224,550 female. In last five years, a total of 56,873 new voters were added having attained the age of exercising their adult franchise.
The 2018 primary round saw a total of 291,098 voters cast their vote out of the total of 438,663 registered voters. Of the total votes cast, 182,518 votes were cast in person through EVM in the 865 polling stations and while the remaining 108,580 voted through postal ballot.
In the general round, a total of 313,473 voters cast their vote out of the total of 438,663 registered voters. Of the total votes cast, 199,553 votes were cast in person on through EVM and 113,920 voted through postal ballot.
Business Bhutan interviewed some of the voters on why they felt there was difference in the voting patterns during the primary and general round elections. Most of them said they tend to attach more importance to the general election than the primary.
A voter from the East said the primary election was about the parties while general round was about the candidates. “Voters show less interest during the primary election because in the primary round, voting is done for the party, while for the general round, the voting is done based on candidate capabilities and competency,” he said.
Another voter, a civil servant, 39, said that the increasing trend of voter turnout signifies the Bhutanese people’s maturity in politics. He said that this is the third parliamentary elections, in addition to numerous Local Government elections. All this has helped the Bhutanese gain better knowledge of the elections. In 2008, the general public including the literate lot had hardly any knowledge on the election process,” he said adding that now almost all people, including the rural people are well versed about elections.
A private employee said that people have really understood the importance of their vote. “The voting happens only once in five years and your one vote is important to make your voice heard,” he said. He added that an increasing number of people are coming forward to vote because they realize that their vote have an impact on people’s lives and the society. More people having better understanding of the elections can also be attributed to the election education campaign and advocacy ECB has been conducting.
According to some voters, few people are apathetic about the elections because they have the notion that whichever party comes to power will have no impact on individuals.
A voter from Pemagatshel said that the reason for people restraining or refraining from voting is because of the performance of the MPs. She said, “All decisions are made in parliament which does not have direct benefit to the local people,”