Elections are the single most important part of a democracy. They allow people to participate in the democratic process by directly choosing who they want as their representatives in the parliament. And they provide political legitimacy to elected representatives and to democratic governments. That’s why it’s important to allow as many people as possible to take part in elections.
So, naturally, I’m happy to hear that the Election Commission has decided to allow Bhutanese citizens living in America to use postal ballots in the next elections. They were not allowed to do so in the past, and, as such, most of them could not exercise their right to vote. I applaud the ECB’s decision, and am fully committed to supporting any initiative that makes it easier for even more of our people to take part in the democratic process.
But I am alarmed at the ECB’s justification for their decision. The chief election commissioner has gone on record to state that the ECB’s decision was “the result of the commitment prime minister made during one of his visits as the head of the government.”
The prime minister cannot alter the electoral system; only parliament can.
What ECB can do, and must do, as long as it is within the framework of our electoral laws, is improve the system to encourage and allow more of our people to exercise the their franchise. But what ECB does, they must do because they feel it is in the best interest of democracy, and not as a “result of the commitment” that a politician may have made.
Otherwise, ECB may be seen to be taking sides. And that won’t be good for democracy.