Contrary to the popular perception of youth’s apathetic attitude towards politics, a majority of the young people that Business Bhutan talked to, however, seems to show a growing interest in politics.
They are not only abreast of political parties and their candidates, but also seem to be aware of who should govern the country, albeit there is also a little section of young people who seems not to know even the ministers who make the Cabinet.
A 24-year-old youth based in Paro said she cares about the elections since it is a responsibility bestowed by the Fourth King.
“We cannot fail His Majesty The King by not voting. We care about the elections and who comes into power because we care for our country’s well being. Our concerns are primarily unemployment and the nation’s economy,” she said, adding that she has registered to vote and wants to take pride in shaping the nation’s future.
A young teacher in Thailand, YeshiLhadon says Bhutanese youth care about the elections as a bigger part of their future will be affected by the decisions made by the elected party.
“Young people are more interested and care about the parliamentary elections than the local government elections. If it’s possible for the second round, I’d like to get my postal ballot too,” she added.
Similarly, a trainee at the Royal Institute of Management, DendupTshering says youth have been showing more interest in politics compared to the past.
“Our monarchs have been always reiterating that youth are the future leaders of the nation. That is why youth are concerned about political party coming to power and solving youth related issues, political party that can enhance the security and sovereignty of the country. Youth unemployment, substance abuse and overwhelmingly high public debt are some issues that concern us,” he added.
Another trainee Sonam Zangpo said youth’s participation in politics involves not only in the voting process, but also by standing as members and engaging in dialogue with the parties during conventions.
He added that their concerns range from unemployment to getting the right and able government at the helm of power. “We are concerned with soaring youth delinquencies and the way youth are seen as by the general public – participating in politics as a means of unemployment is a case in point.”
A Sherubtse College graduate, Thinley Dorji, 22, meanwhile, says that other concerns of the youth today are money power, politicians bribing voters by giving money or other goods, the false promises by politicians, and doubts whether the people will chose the right political party.
“How the upcoming parties will be competent and equipped with their strategies to solve national concerns such as trade deficit and achieve self reliance. Unemployment is the biggest concern these days as unemployment rate is increasing each year. Some youth are little reluctant to vote as we can see from their responses,” he added.
However, Thinley Dorji has registered to vote for the upcoming elections and says that it’s his fundamental duty to choose the right party and the candidate.
“Young people must be aware of the issues, listen to politicians, and participate in the system by voting. They must be confident in their opinions and their ability to shape their own country,” he added.
And some young people have not only realized the importance of voting, they are also shouldering this responsibility by availing all the necessary options to be able to vote in the democratic process.
DechenWangmo Sherpa, a second year college student, said she has registered for the upcoming elections to vote for the right candidate and election matters to her.
“Youth unemployment is a biggest concern. Youth want to work and be independent, but it’s not happening because of less number of job vacancies,” she added. “There are young people who get impatient after waiting for years to get a job. So they opt to go abroad and work whether they like or not. And there are some youth who are depressed and stressed because after graduating, they cannot get a job and start losing hope. It’s from there they start doing bad things.”
However, there are also some young people, who have an apathetic attitude towards politics.
PhuntshoChoden from Zhemgang says she is least bothered about elections. “Politicians and parties encourage and engage young people before elections. They are told that they would do this and that, but everything is forgotten after the election,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) maintained that they have been advocating youth in electoral advocacy program through various means and among them is the establishment of Bhutan Children’s Parliament.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu