MB Subba 

In five days, dhamngoi zomdus (selection of candidates) will begin for the third local government election, according to the notification issued from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) on October 27.

Dhamngoi zomdus will be held from November 3 to 20, and the election will be held on December 22. The dates for dhamngoi zomdus will differ from chiwog to chiwog.

ECB secretariat director Phub Dorji said that the elections will be conducted in full compliance with all Covid-19 safety protocols to protect the health of people.

He said that standard operating procedures (SOP) that were followed in the recent Phuentsholing thromde elections and the Nganglam by-elections would be followed should there be a lockdown in certain confined areas.

Phub Dorji said that polling officials with personal protective equipment (PPE) will go from door to door to collect votes in the village or chiwog where a lockdown is imposed.

However, he added that the election could be postponed if the hypothetical lockdown were extended to the whole of a dzongkhag or the country, depending on the situation.

Candidates will begin their campaigns on November 25 and conclude on December 20. This means that the candidates will have 26 days for campaigning.

Phub Dorji said that only the supporters identified by the candidate to campaign on his or her behalf and communicated accordingly to electoral officials will be allowed to engage in campaign activities.

He added, “A candidate will be liable for all acts of commission and omission of their election representatives, which may include any interference in the conduct of lawful electoral work and/or disturbing peace and order, and undermining a free and fair election.”  

The ECB has encouraged voters residing outside the dzongkhags to register and vote through postal ballots due to the pandemic.

The commission also bars civil servants, except those on election duty, from attending campaign meetings. Members of Parliament and political parties will not be allowed to travel, organise public gatherings, or undertake official tours during the election period.

The elections will be held in 205 gewogs, 16 dzongkhag towns and the dzongkhag thromde of Samdrupjongkhar.

Chiwogs are entitled to nominate one candidate each to contest the election for the posts of gup and mangmi.

A registered voter aspiring to contest as gewog tshogpa shall produce signatures of at least five percent of the registered voters from the respective chiwog supporting his or her nomination.

However, in the case of chiwogs with a small number of voters, the requirement will be reviewed and decided by the ECB on a case-by-case basis.

A candidate for the third LG election must be born on or before November 22, 1996 but not before November 22, 1956.

Registered voters born on or before October 1, 2003 will be eligible to exercise their adult voting rights.

The candidates are restricted to neither serve meals and refreshments nor pay money, give gifts, or any rewards to the general public or voters for attending election campaigns, or produce, wear, and distribute t-shirts and caps for campaigning.

All the individuals attending the common forum shall ensure full compliance with all Covid-19 health safety protocols.

The ECB has also barred civil society organisations (CSOs) from participating directly or indirectly in the election.

A person who has applied for a postal ballot will not be allowed to vote in person.

De-suups will be mobilised as per requirements to supplement and complement the efforts of the RBP and to enforce the Covid-19 health safety protocols.

If there is no candidate after the last date for the filing of candidate nominations notified herein, the elections will be postponed until further notice.

Edited by Tshering Palden