MB Subba

As they file their nominations today, the candidates for by-election in Chhoekhor-Tang constituency, Bumthang are concerned about postal ballots from overseas due to lack of regular international flights.

Registration for postal voters started on October 16 but the returning officer (RO) will begin sending postal ballots only on October 27. The last date for receiving postal ballots by the RO is November 18.

This will leave only 23 days for the RO to dispatch and receive the postal ballots.

However, the candidates are hoping that the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) would have worked out an alternative arrangement to enable constituents residing abroad to vote.

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has fielded former BBS anchor, Dawa, 42. He will contest against businessman Tenzin Norbu, 35, of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT).

Dawa said he was concerned about whether the overseas voters would be able to send their ballots.

He said that many people from the constituency resided in countries including the USA and Australia.

“I’m a bit worried how my well-wishers and supporters will get the chance to vote. I am sure the ECB will come up with an alternative. Otherwise, it won’t be fair,” Dawa said.  

The Chief Election Commissioner and commissioners for the Election Commission were appointed on October 14.

The Opposition Party’s candidate, Tenzin Norbu, said that the chances of the bye-election getting affected were high due to restrictions on international flights.

He said that that the time was limited for overseas voters to receive postal ballots and send them back.

Loss of jobs in the private sector, he said, was one of the concerns when it came to registering for postal ballots. Many voters residing in other dzongkhags, he said, did not have proper address as the companies have retrenched them.

An ECB official said that the commission was looking into the issue.

The ECB has notified that common forums will be conducted strictly as per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) amid Covid-19.

The election campaign will begin on October 24. Common forums will be held in chiwogs and the dzongkhag thromde.

The constituency became vacant with the official resignation of Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) on September 7.

The constituency has a total of 6,219 registered voters.