Are you going to vote in the upcoming elections this time?
The common answer that we are likely to get on asking a motley group vis-à-vis the upcoming National Council elections is: ‘Nah, not this time. But I am definitely voting in the next one or in the main elections’.
This is ostensibly a majority of our people’s attitude towards the National Council elections. There seems to be some sorts of a lukewarm attitude or uninterestedness amongst the electorates when it comes to going to the polls and casting votes to elect representatives for the National Council. It may perhaps be because of some electorates being oblivious of the differences between the mandate of the National Assembly and National Council, or perhaps the electorates feel that the National Council elections is not of much importance.
Such consideration has also been validated by figures of the last two elections. When the first National Council elections was held on January 29, 2008, only 165, 962 voters voted from the total 312,502 registered voters, thus accounting to total voter turnout of 53 percent.
And five years later during the second National Council elections, 168,180 voters exercised their voting rights of the total 379,819 registered voters, accounting for voter turnout of around 45 percent. The number plummeted by around eight percent compared to that of the 2008 National Council elections.
Contrarily, overall voter turnouts have always been more when it comes to choosing representatives for the National Assembly. The overall voter turnouts in the general round of parliamentary elections were reportedly 80 percent in 2008 and 66.1 percent in 2013.
Nonetheless, National Council elections are important to have adept and capable candidates in the Upper House. As a House of Review with legislative function, the National Council also has important control functions. Besides initiating or preparing legislation, reviewing and amending existing laws, the National Council must also look into all legislations passed by the National Assembly. A weak National Council, therefore, would be unable to institute a check-and-balance mechanism that is so much expected from the Upper House.
Further, it also has an important mandate of reviewing the policies, plans and programs of the government and its performance. A strong NC is inevitable, therefore, to ensure that the government doesn’t do whatever it wants or fancies. Governments essentially like humans are fallible. It can make mistakes. It is where a strong National Council must intervene to hold the government accountable, to ensure transparency and to right the wrongs.
A little more than a month from now, we will have elections to elect the third set of our National Council members. It’s befitting, therefore, to ensure that right and deserving candidates win. But most importantly, we need to ensure that we exercise our electoral franchise accordingly and dutifully.