The Bhutanese people have chosen a set of parliamentary leaders this week. We welcome the National Council members-elect with an open mind but with great expectations. This is the time to respect the people’s choice and reflect on what it means for the next five years.
This time round, there is not a single woman for the house of review. Obviously, a number of people, particularly women, are not pleased with this election outcome. Much as we would have liked women abundantly represented in the National Council, it is, again, the choice of the people. Perhaps our people did not look at the candidates through the gender lens. Leadership choice in Bhutan has never been coloured by gender issues. However, lack of women in political leadership is definitely a food for thought. For now though, it’s time to move on.
And this time around, we have elected a fairly young set of councillors. Many of them beat older and more experienced candidates. This is welcome although it has drawn many stereotypical responses from many quarters. Let’s wait and see what substance our young, glib leaders are made of. While we welcome young leaders, we do not discount experience and maturity, which are perhaps the best insurance for good leadership. This, however, does not give us a reason to discount youth in leadership.
Interestingly, most former members of the house were voted out. Was it because our constituencies found better leaders or were they simply experimenting with new comers? We do not know. What we know is that it’s the people speaking their minds. What counted was how much the candidates were able to appeal to the people and how much the people were able to identify themselves with the candidates. It’s the leadership defined by the people, not the highbrow, highly educated elite.
At 45.17 percent, the voter turnout leaves a lot to be desired. Speculations surrounding this issue will not make things better next time around, but a serious study will. A study on the voting pattern in this election could yield revealing figures on people’s perception and concept of leadership and gender issues.
In the meantime, we hope that voter turnout will increase in the National Assembly election and women will be elected.