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Bhutan’s National Council Elections: Another Step Strengthening Democracy

Bhutan’s National Council Elections were held on April 20 and Kuenselonline reports that despite apprehensions that voter turnout would drop, the turnout was the highest so far in the National Council elections.

There has been a strong factor of anti incumbency as well as 18 new candidates have been chosen to represent the people and of the 11 incumbents , only two were successful in securing a seat in the House as per Bhutan Broadcasting Corporation.

Around 30,000 more voters cast their votes in the fourth National Council elections compared with the third council elections.

As per the Election Commission of Bhutan’s record, 265,465 voters cast their vote out of the 485,811 registered voters in the country. 168,652 cast their votes through EVM and 96, 813 through postal ballots as per Kuenselonline.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Dasho Sonam Topgay said that the council election was a success compared with the local government elections.

The CEC said that the provisional results were declared in a short period of time, even if the NC election were not as complex as the LG elections. “During the LG elections, election officials had to stay for 48 hours in the office counting the results,” the CEC said.

The large voter turnout has been a surprise given that these elections are apolitical in nature the interest is expected to be limited and political mobilization is not high.

The Parliament of Bhutan is the highest legislative body in the country. Its consists of the Druk Gyalpo, the National Council and the National Assembly. The National Council has both legislative and review functions and is also referred to as the House of Review.

The next major elections in Bhutan will be for the National Assembly.

According to the constitution, the new house has to be constituted within 90 days. There are two rounds – a primary round to choose the two most popular political parties and the general election for constituency-based candidates.

As the National Assembly elections will be fought on the party lines the election activity will be much more intense in the coming days and months. In the past elections incumbent party has failed to keep its position so the race appears to be wide open for now.

On the whole the process of democracy seems to be expanding in Bhutan, a constitutional monarchy. The process triggered by the House of Wangchuk continues to see greater participation by the public at large who see the opportunity to vote as a reflection of their aspirations.

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