The confusion is attributed to inadequate attendance of voter education programmes carried out by ECB

LG: Despite many rounds of voter education programmes carried out by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), voters say they are confused between the ongoing zomdu and polls that will be held on September 27.

A mangmi candidate from Punakha said there has been low turn out of people in the zomdus because of lack of clear understanding between the two. “When people think it’s a zomdu they think it’s okay only if one person attends the zomdu,” he said. 

Observers believe that the confusion is because many people don’t attend the public voter education programmes carried out by the ECB.  The ECB carried out nation wide voter education programmes before the announcement of the election.

Zomdus literally mean public meetings. Many people are not aware that all eligible voters from a household should cast votes in the zomdus.

The mangmi candidate also said that the ECB should release the zomdu schedule at least a few weeks ahead of the zomdu dates. He said it was important for the candidates to invite their supporters and relatives to come for the zomdus to vote.

A zomdu is held at the chiwog level to select a candidate for the post of gup and mangmi to represent their chiwog in the polls to be held on September 27. The voters say there is no standard timing for casting votes in zomdus, which means that the closing and opening of the voting at the zomdu will be decided by the respective election officials.

“If it is on the poll day, there is standard timing for casting votes nationwide where polls open at 9am and closes at 5pm,” said Dr Tandi Dorji, a voter from Punakha and President of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa. Due to lack of proper timing, he said people will miss out on their chance to cast their vote.

“Many people think that the zomdus will open at 9pm and close at 5pm. But I am told that we have to go early to vote otherwise the zomdu will be closed,” he said.

He added that the ECB should look into the issue and amend the relevant laws to facilitate more voter participation in the next elections.

Voters also say that the ECB should provide postal ballots for zomdus. Others say that it is expensive for voters to travel twice for one election – the first for the zomdus and the second time for the polls, which happens within a period of one month.

An MP said that one of his relatives was contesting the election but he could not cast his vote. MPs have been asked to stay away from their constituencies.

In such a case, he said that the ECB should provide postal ballots so that they can cast their votes for the candidate of their choice.

A former dzongkhag tshogdu chairman of Paro, Phub Tshering, said some of the voters in Paro had to return from the zomdus due to lack of voter photo identity cards. “Some have lost their cards and some have attained the adulthood but they have not got their voter cards,” he said.

He also said that the confusion between zomdus and polls was prevalent in some constituencies in his dzongkhag.

Speaking during the press conference last week, Chief Election Commissioner, Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said many rounds of the voter education programme were carried out before the election across the country and that all the ground works for the ongoing elections were carried out.

“We urge all the voters to turn up for the zomdus,” said the chief election commissioner. Voter education programmes were also held in Thimphu for those living in the capital and  not able to attend the voter education programmes carried out in their gewogs.

MB Subba