Thromde elections and the neglected majority

The thromde elections are over and new thrompons and tshogpas elected in the three municipalities of Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu widely considered the commercial hubs of the country.
Given the magnanimity of the role played by these new cohorts of urban planners and decision makers, it has become even more imperative that the best and the most deserving candidates are given the job.
The last Thromde elections were a disaster; especially given the voter turnout figure which was less than 35 percent. And, given that only about 7-10 percent of the urban dwellers are actually eligible to vote in the elections, the figures are strikingly pathetic as it reflects resident’s apathy towards the elections.
The thromde elections this time around fared a little better with about 60% of the total eligible population going to the polls. However, this is still a very small figure given that a huge majority of the urban dwellers are not eligible to vote because of the existing rules of engagement drawn by the Election Commission of Bhutan.
Thimphu, the capital city which has a population of more than 150,000 has only about 8000 registered voters to represent the whole of the urban population living in Thimphu municipality. Of the total registered population only about 60 percent actually participated in the polls that make the representation ratio very questionable.
Many are of the belief that thromde elections, especially for the most coveted mayor’s post, is a family affair with candidates focusing their campaign, and the subsequent development works, on uplifting only their friends and families while the larger interest of the majority had no voice whatsoever.
The recent development in Thimphu, where the voters chose to elect a new mayor contrary to the belief that the incumbent was sure to call the shots as most, or a good majority, of eligible voters was his close kin and who favoured him to win, however, speaks volumes that the voters indeed take other things into account.
While a huge majority of Thimphu thromde residents cannot vote despite being very much an integral part of the city, the notion that the post of the mayor was reserved for those kin of a handful of eligible voters is now changing.
Former Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay dorji’s loss in the race, even from polling stations where he was favoured to win as it all comprised of his friends and relatives, has come as a stark reminder that only focusing on a small cohort of the populace and not heeding the call of the majority of urban city dwellers can at times backfire.
Nonetheless, even if people chose to give voice to the minority the ECB has a major role to play here. Because not allowing 90 percent of the urban population in a franchise that wholly affects the entire population is a huge fracas, and this must change.
The ECB must look into the prospects of making the Thromde voters’ eligibility a little more lenient so that more individuals can partake in the process which has a huge bearing on all.
Otherwise, no matter what changes come by, a handful of people representating the majority in itself is a huge flaw. This should be rectified.

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