Rural voters much more discerning and involved in 2018 polls

People’s participation during the common forums on the whole has improved compared to the past two elections of 2008 and 2013. People were seen coming to attend the common forum walking for up to an hour leaving all their important work behind in the observation of election officials.

“People know the importance of elections and that they are using the best opportunity given to them to make their choice,” said an official from the field.

However, election officers and candidates also observed people around the country who fail to come for common forums giving more importance to their work.

In the common forums help so far, Samtse Dzongkhag with four constituencies saw 3,640 people coming for forums, Trongsa saw 1,080 people. Likewise, Chukha Dzongkhag has received 1,534 people, Trashiyangtse 1, 548 and Punakha saw 1,712 coming.

While turnout seems to have improved compared to past elections it is still comparatively lowers compared to the total number of registered voters.

Samtse has 47, 360 registered voters, Trongsa has 10,250, Chukha has 24,693, Trashiyangtse has 18,388 and Punakha has 16,949 registered voters.

An official explained that the turnouts numbers compared to the total number of voters because normally only one representative from each household will be attending a common forum.

Chukha Dzongda Minjur Dorji said that, with time, experience and with voter education now people are better aware of the do’s and don’ts of the election.

He also said people turnout during the common forum was better than in the past two elections, as most of the halls were packed. “This can be also because of the initiative taken by each Tshogpa/ Mangmi/ Gups to inform people about the objective and importance of the common forum”, he added.

In addition, he also said that, people walked from long distances just to listen to the parties and to make their choice. He said, “When I talk with the people, I feel that people are coming to better realize the importance of democracy and how it can make a difference in their day to day lives and this is positive sign for democracy.”

The Chukha Dzongda also observed a higher level of seriousness within the people regarding the election with at least one representative from each household coming to attend common forum, he added.

Likewise, Gasa Dzongda, Dorji Dhradhul said that, in general, the trend of people’s participation in common forums has increased from the past elections. He said, “This can be because of voter education and educating people on democracy and its importance. During the past elections, people decided at once on which party to vote for before the common forum and thereby they felt that it was okay not to attain the common forum.”

He said now, everything has changed, with more awareness, experience and education and so they now give importance to every event related to elections. “The other reason for better turnout could be because they are given multiple choices to chose the best party after listening to their respective party pledges”, he said.

According to Goenpo, Dy. Chairperson of Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag, a lot of improvement has been seen in the turnout during common forums with no complaints from the people.

He said, “People in general are showing interest in election and they are looking forward to take the chance to listen to what each candidate has to say. There are some who leave their farming behind just to listen to the candidates.”

“People say that before they did not know the importance of elections and that they were not well aware of what really democracy is. However, now with experience they know who to vote for and why to vote”, he added.

Chukha Dzongkhag Thrizin Tshering Nidup said that, they are happy to see people coming forward for every event. “In the past election, we had to request them to come for event related to elections and most of them decided to vote for the ones they knew but this has changed “, he said.

Now with more awareness, telecast of debates and education on election, he said that, people talk within themselves on the importance of election and a difference one vote can make for better development.

He also said that what helps is with technology, they do not have to go around asking people to come and attend the common forum, as they use social media like WeChat where they encourage each other to come.

“Everything is changing with time and people now know who to vote. They can also make a judgment on every individual based on their speech and presentation. It is good to see that democracy is getting better shape with time and experience”, he added.

Meanwhile, an official from the field said that, though the turnout has increased, there is still lot more to be done. “The efforts are also made by the Dzongkhag party coordinator who encourage each and every individual explaining the importance of the election”, the official added.

He also said that, since this is cardamom harvesting the season, it was challenging for the coordinator to encourage people to come and attain the common forum in the south. Nevertheless, he said, at the end of the day, the turnout was good and lot of improvement has been seen.

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