Dechen Dolkar 

Khamdang-Ramjar by-election candidates will not be allowed to campaign starting 8am today.

Section 305 of the Election Act states that no candidate or political party will hold public meetings and campaign on the polling day and during 48-hours preceding the hour fixed for the commencement of polling.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) states that during this period no one is allowed to publish, broadcast, or transmit any material that of an election campaign nature, supporting or opposing any candidate on any media platform.

ECB states that, however, the authorised campaign materials posted during the campaign period may be retained as they are, if they are not within 100 metres of the polling station.

With the pandemic situation and surge of Covid-19 cases in the country, the returning officer (RO) for by-election, Tenzin Namgyal, said that if there are any positive cases and lockdown in the constituency, the initial plan was to hold election in containment mode, collecting the votes with door-to-door services. “We were supposed to collect the votes on January 26 to 28.”

However, since there have not been any positive cases yet and only two days left for the poll day, now the only option is to defer the poll day if there are positive cases within the next two days in the constituency. “The Election Act also mentioned deferring poll day, if there are any unavoidable circumstances.”

He said that they are prepared to conduct the by-elections with Covid-19 protocols and that presiding officers are leaving for their respective polling stations today.

“More than 6,700 voters are expected to come and vote via EVM on the poll day,” RO said.

There are 101 voters registered for the mobile voting booth, 3,142 registered voters for postal ballots, and a total of 10,075 registered voters in the constituency.

The RO said that 90 voters had voted through mobile voting and 2,788 voters through postal ballot.

The ECB has collected postal ballots via door-to-door services.

The ECB also notified that no one will arrange, organize, conduct, undertake, introduce, issue, release, or finalise any public activity, event, or decision that has the potential to sway voters in favour of or against a candidate or be exploited for electoral gains.

Any individual or candidate resorting to such unlawful acts shall be dealt with as per the laws, the ECB states.

“Public opinion survey reports on the elections will not be released to the general public prior to closure of the poll and forecast or predictions relating to the probable result of the elections based on the information provided by or obtained from voters or observers at the elections,” the ECB states.

There are 19 polling stations in the constituency.

The by-election is on February 3.