Making Elections Better in Bhutan

16 Jan 2014

image HRH Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck displays the LEP Report with the Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan.

UNDP Supported Learning from Experience Report (LEP) released at Election Commission of Bhutan’s 8th Anniversary. The LEP is an important instrument to ensure future elections meet expected standards and fulfill the needs of Bhutanese democracy.  

Thimphu, 16 January 2014 – The Election Commission of Bhutan was commended today for its role in running smooth elections, by  Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck.

She was speaking at the launch of the report on the Learning from Experience Programme (LEP) in Thimphu today. The launch was part of an event commemorating the 8th anniversary of the founding of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) that was also attended by the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and other dignitaries.

HRH Wangchuck, who is also  President of the Bhutan National Legal Institute, said, “the ECB has shouldered the responsibility of ensuring free and fair elections, and has gained our immense respect for putting in a strong system in place.” She also emphasized the importance of citizen participation to ensure a strong democracy for Bhutan.

The United Nations Development Programme, supported the LEP in drawing lessons from the 2013 elections to help improve processes and procedures in the electoral system, and to improve management of future elections.

Recommendations highlighted in the LEP included: an emphasis on voter and civic education across the country, encouraging women to run for elected posts and offices that will be facilitated by conducting a study on the quota system, ensuring the effective engagement of youth in electoral processes through the newly launched V-VOICE to contribute voluntary services during elections, and  Democracy Clubs in schools to prepare future voters and politicians about  democratic values and electoral practices.

Speaking at the event, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan said, the country should have only a few political parties.

“Bhutan, in terms of population is one of the smallest multi-party democracies in the world, he said. It is important that political parties consolidate rather than proliferate, paling into insignificance.”

UNDP supported the LEP both financially and technically. Lessons from the LEP will be used to develop civic education and outreach programmes to enhance democratic participation and strengthen voices of those underrepresented, as well as youth.

UNDP’s Christina Carlson says, “We were pleased to support the historic general elections in 2008, and the preparations for the local government elections in 2011 and general elections in 2013. Globally, over 100 countries have requested and received UN election assistance since 1991.We wish to continue being a valuable partner to the government to sustain and deepen the democratic processes in Bhutan focusing on women’s political participation which is comparatively low with only five of seventy-two members of parliament being women (6.9%) and ensuring youth voices are heard.”

Since 2007, UNDP has provided technical support to the ECB and to help civil society participation in elections. UNDP also supported Bhutan’s first Parliamentary elections in 2008.  

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About UNDP:
UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.bt.undp.org

About the ECB:
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) was established on 16th January 2006, following the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner under the Royal Decree on 31 December 2005.  The main objective behind the establishment of the ECB is to create an environment that is conducive to free and fair elections so that all Bhutanese women and men, who are eligible and interested, can take part in the elections.  The ECB is mandated for superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls, conduct of parliamentary and local government elections as well as of holding a referendum under the Constitution, in a free and fair manner.

Contact Information

Contact Information:
Annamari Salonen
Head a.i, Democratic Governance Programme
UNDP Bhutan
Annamari.salonen@undp.org
Ph: +975 322424

Sonam Tsoki Tenzin
Communications Officer
UNDP Bhutan
Tsoki@undp.org
Ph: +975 322424