To the polls again

A Council member will be elected from each Dzongkhag next week on 23 April

Five years ago the nation made history when it ushered in democracy that was given to the people and not forged through remnants of struggles and revolutionary upheavals. This year on the poll day for the upper house, National Council, once again people will elect their representative of choice.

After many common forum campaigns, Gewog nominations, public debates and door-to-door visits, exactly two days from today, the nation will go to polls to elect 20 councilors, one from each district, from among 67 candidates, on 23 April.

Aged between 25 and 58, the candidates, among many others comprise of former NC members, graduates, those who had contested the first council election but lost and candidates of political parties, who contested the first assembly election but failed to secure a seat.

The media, in all its forms, has been regularly following and covering the campaigns, from live broadcasts to newspaper reports to updates on social media.

Police are already beefing up security as the poll day draws closer. On April 22, from 6 pm onwards, the international borders will be sealed for 24 hours.

Assistant election officer in Samdrup Jongkhar, Tshering Sonam said preparations are in full swing. “Polling officers and presiding officers are being dispatched to their respective polling stations. Everyone will be at their stations latest by Sunday. So, we are all geared up and excited for the coming poll day,” he said.

ECB’s returning officer (RO) in Dagana Kinga Dorji said people in the Dzongkhag have better knowledge of the elections than in 2008. “There is only one candidate and he is an experienced one,” he said. Kinga Dorji also said most people are positive about their candidate. “But we cannot say anything about the poll results,” he added.

RO of Gasa Dzongkhag Dawa Penjor said most of their officials have been dispatched already since the officials need to walk for days to the polling stations.

He said the officials for Lunana will be travelling by chopper since the passes are covered by snow. “We have eight officials posted for Lunana where there will be approximately 470 voters,” Dawa said.

Dawa also said the final common forum concluded at Ramina, Lunana yesterday. “The three candidates put up a friendly atmosphere and they travelled together all the way, so we hope everything will go on smooth.”

A NC candidate from Lhuentse Dzongkhag, Tempa Dorji contesting against former NC Rinzin Rinzin said the wining chances are fifty-fifty with just two candidates. “Whoever wins the election should really benefit the people of Lhuntse,” he said.

One of the NC candidates from Sarpang Dzongkhag Dan Bahadur Mongar said “I really can’t say how people will turn up on the Election Day but people were positive during the campaign period. We never know whom they will vote for. By now, people might have already decided whom to vote.”

A candidate from the capital, Tshering Tashi said he is hopeful that the people shall make the right choice although he hasn’t finished campaigning due to limited time. “Though am not so over confident about winning, I will respect the voters choice,” he said.

The 20 elected, along with five eminent nominees, will form the national council, an apolitical institution and an integral part of the Bhutanese parliamentary system.

The candidates emerged after successfully crossing the phases ECB laid out for them.  They were first nominated by their Gewogs through a selection Zomdu, followed by scrutiny of nomination papers by the commission.

Of the 67 candidates, five are women. Samtse has the highest number of candidates contesting with seven on board, while Trashigang and Dagana Dzongkhag have just one each.

The number of candidates this time is more than what the first council election saw.  There were 52 candidates contesting the 20 council seats in 2008. Of the candidates, 46 were men and six were women, aged between 25 and 57.  In the end, 16 men and four women were elected.

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