Voter turndown at 37%

The absenteeism of registered voters during elections are increasing year on

About 1,83,900 registered voters did not turn up to cast their votes during the primary round of the National Assembly (NA) elections 2023-2024.

This means that the absence rate is about 37% of the total 4, 97,058 registered voters in the country, according to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).

The figures indicated that two in every five registered voters didn’t cast their votes. ECB stated that the 37% abstention percentage raises questions about civic involvement and democratic participation of the Bhutanese people. The overall voter turnout was positive at 63%.

Out of the 4,97,058 registered voters, 1,95,719 of the votes were casted through Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) while Postal Ballot (PB) accounted the remainder 1,17,443 of the total votes casted at 809 polling stations across the nation.

In PDP stronghold Sombaykha constituency under Haa Dzongkhag, 1,369 registered voters did not turn up to exercise their franchise.

Being a fresh graduate, Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) was able to garner positive votes in Kanglung_Samkhar_Udzorong constituency, securing 3,837 of the total votes.  The numbers could have been astonishing had all the 12,417 registered voters in the constituency turn up to vote. More than 4,400 didn’t cast their share of vote in the constituency.

The highest voter turndown was seen from Samtse Dzongkhag with 22,896 out of 53,411 registered voters opting not to cast their votes. In contrast, Gasa Dzongkhag saw the least number of voter turndown with 582 people out of 2,300 registered voters not able to exercise their franchise.

Similarly, 21,111 registered voters failed to cast their vote in Monggar resulting as the second highest voter turndown. Haa Dzongkhag, with a voter turndown of 2,838, is the second lowest in the country.

Samtse Dzongkhag, which recorded the highest voter turndown in the country, sees the lack of enthusiasm for elections and voting from the voters. It has also been noticed that with every election, the voter turndown is increasing, which resonates concerns about people’s participation in election process. The voter turndown in the primary round of 2018 NA election was 33.64%, comparatively lower than the figures this year by 3.36%.

Registered voters opined that they could not go for voting due to multiple reasons. For those working in the private sector and working abroad, they were neither provided PB nor facilitation booths, while they could not travel to their constituencies as they could not bear the travel expenses. However, some of them had their personal issues such as health problems and family issues due to which they were unable to cast the ballots in their respective constituencies.

Deepak Tamang, Pema Youden and Pema Tshomo from Thimphu