Bhutan is voting tomorrow, January 9. This is Bhutan’s fourth general elections after it declared multi-party democracy with a constitutional monarchy in 2007. This festival of democracy (the hard-earned fruit of the Bhutanese people) is when the electorate can vote to elect 47 most suitable candidates in the lower house of Bhutan parliament (National Assembly) to rule this beautiful country for the next five years.
Unfortunately, as of now, many consider Bhutan’s democracy to be a pseudo-democracy because the Bhutanese people have not been allowed to vote freely and fairly, and the elected representatives were deprived one way or the other of serving people as per their conscience. With too much interference from outside, specifically from extra-constitutional bodies, the democratic process in Bhutan was never allowed to function independently. Parliament is still working as a rubber stamp rather than a sovereign law-making body. Thus, such undemocratic interferences have given the impression that democracy in Bhutan is fake, introduced solely to showcase on the international stage and ultimately to fulfill a few people’s selfish interests.
The right to vote is a very sacred and expensive right that a citizen gets in a democracy. Thus, if utilized very carefully, freely, reasonably, and with great confidentiality, it can bring prosperity to the country, but if misused, it can be disastrous to the nation.
Therefore, I request that all Bhutanese people take this election as an opportunity to cast their vote for suitable candidates without fear, lust for money, or whatever unfair means the concerned pressures you to vote for them. This action will not only lead to the country’s prosperity but also help to show practically and gain confidence from the outside world that Bhutan’s democracy with a constitutional monarchy is genuine, vibrant, and inclusive, as mentioned in the constitution of Bhutan. Let the new parliament release and honor all the country’s political prisoners and formulate and implement the policy of including all sections of the population in the building process through democratic means.
Finally, my best wishes go to all the Bhutanese people. I fully hope that they exercise their rights as per their conscience and that those elected are the most honest servants of the people.
Ram Karki is a Bhutanese Human Rights Activist based in The Hague. He also leads Global Campaign to release Political Prisoners in Bhutan (GCRPPB).