The nation is poised to elect the second batch of National Council (NC) members. The candidates have been confirmed, the formal campaign and public debate between the candidates have begun. We are ready to go. But the final responsibility remains – the responsibility to examine the candidates carefully and choose the best ones. Here we should not confuse ourselves by associating the best leadership attributes with academic qualifications and age. Leadership is these, but much more.
Except for Trashigang and Dagana, which have only one candidate each, most dzongkhags have many candidates to choose from. And this calls for informed scrutiny, mature judgment, and courage to speak one’s mind. The campaign and public debate are expected to help people pick the right candidates. The campaign is funded by the state and it does not come cheap. So, we should make the best use of this platform to decide what kind of leaders we want in the NC for the next five years.
The candidates, on their part, should use this platform to make themselves clear to the people, not confuse them. Our experience from 2008 tells us that some candidates could be unsure of what they are going to tell the people, while some would deliberately not keep things simple. Instead of embellishing their campaign speeches with sweet talk and clichéd “being the servants of the people”, they should tell the people, in simple, everyday language, how they can help them and what kind of leadership they will provide.
This applies to the televised public debate. Our observation of the 2008 elections was that the debate between some candidates would not bring out any substantive issue of interest to the people. While some would fail to put their points across owing to limited language ability, some, with the gift of the gab, would refuse to shed linguistic ornaments for clarity and substance.
Understanding the nuances of campaigns and debates will go a long way in our understanding of the candidates and their leadership abilities. This is not easy, especially if one is not informed. The quality of deliberation in the NC in the next five years will be determined by how well the voters understand their candidates in the next few weeks.