A cross section of voters feel that local government elections should be given priority since it strengthens democracy at the grassroots, is closest to people and pressing development needs and can also address issues like unemployment among youth.
Tshering, a civil servant, said LG is the root level for the development as it starts from Gewog and Chiwog level. “The local government is the starting level of development in the country so the LG leader must be good to make sound decisions,” she said.
A voter, in his early 30’s, said one challenge was the geography and far flung and scattered nature of settlements that made voter participation a burden.
He also said that students above 18 years do not seem to use the postal ballot to cast their vote. “Students nearby their constituency go to vote but the rest do not,” he said. “Therefore, I wonder if the postal ballot system is known to the students.”
Dorji, 53, said, people in rural areas think that their vote won’t make a much difference and in terms of candidate participation they force someone just to represent their chiwog so there is a need to sensitize them.
Palden, 37, said that while more youths were coming forward to participate in the election voters want people with experience. “This way youths/fresh graduate somehow get discouraged so I think we should educate rural people on such issues beforehand,” she said.
Naku,62, said candidates make false promises which make people lose faith. “There are many who feel the same but they don’t want to talk. This way I think people lose interest in voting and some even don’t want to attend Zomdue,” he said.
Damchoe, 27, said she would go to her village in Chapcha to vote. “I will vote for capable person,” she said,
Dawa Pemba, a Gup candidate from Chapcha said that he is happy to be part of the election since it was a way to learn more. “What I found after door-to-door campaign was that some of the chiwogs/villages are empty and more than 60 percent of people have migrated to urban areas because of a lack of facilities in rural areas,” he said. “Poor road condition is also a bottleneck for good agriculture production.”
Jamtsho, a candidate from Chapacha gewog said that during door-to-door campaigns most of the houses were found locked.
“During the day people are all gone for work and when they get back it is 5 or 6 pm and we cannot campaign after 6 pm,” he said. He also said that people do not attend the Chiwog Zomdu, which was very discouraging.
Similarly, Tek Bdr. Ghalley, a candidate from Phuentsholing gewog said that walking for longer distances is the biggest challenge they are facing in their campaign. “Phuentsholing gewog is vast and we have to walk for 5 to 9 hours in some places because of road blocks so it has become difficult to finish the campaign by September 25, 6 pm,” he said. “Visiting Chiwog to Chiwog made me realise why every villager could not make it for the Chiwog zomdu; its many hours of walk and risky in the monsoon.”
Candidates also raised their concerns on the Nu 50,000 as ceiling for campaign expenses. A candidate from Chapcha said that no budget was provided from the government.
A candidate from Phuentsholing gewog said that they had to use their own money (Nu.50,000) for campaign which is not refundable if disqualified. “I am not saying government should refund our expenditure but what I want to say is, since I come from a poor family I want to use the money in better ways and want to do the cost cutting as far as possible,” he said.
For the second LG election, Chukha Dzongkhag has 36 gup candidates, 28 Mangmi candidates and 108 Tshogpa candidates contesting the election on 27 September 2016.
This story was possible due to support from DoIM.