Uncontested elections are generally walkovers for the lone candidates. That’s why they’re called “uncontested” elections. Since uncontested elections have only one contesting candidate, that candidate is automatically declared the winner.
But not in Bhutan. Our electoral laws allow voters to cast their ballots even if there’s only one candidate is running. According to Sections 575 and 576 of the Election Act:
575. A poll at any election to Parliament or a Local Government shall be taken in the constituency concerned even if there is only one contesting candidate or political party.
576. The candidate shall, for the purposes of section 575, be declared elected only if he/she secures in his/her favour a majority of the total valid votes cast at the election.
This feature is unique to Bhutan. Unlike voters in other democracies, our voters can exercise their right to vote even in uncontested elections. That is, our voters have the right to accept or reject a candidate even if that candidate is the only candidate in that constituency.
The whole purpose of democracy is to give people the power to choose their representatives. So the people must enjoy that power – to accept or reject – even if there is only one contesting candidate.
The recent local government elections proved that this unique feature is important. The elections had 535 constituencies having only one candidate. And voters rejected the lone candidates in 31 of those constituencies.
The winning candidates will represent their people for five years. So it’s important that people have the right choose their representatives even when that choice is limited to one candidate.
Naturally, I feel bad for the 31 candidates who lost the uncontested elections. But the results, unfortunate though they may seem, are a celebration of democracy in Bhutan.
Photo credit: BBS