The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has scheduled dhamngoi zomdus (chiwog meetings for the nomination of gup and mangmi candidates) for the upcoming local government (LG) elections in two shifts of three hours each a day.
This will enable election officials to conduct a zomdu both in the morning (from 8am to 11am) and the afternoon (1pm to 4pm).
However, aspiring candidates are unhappy with the arrangement, which they say has too small a time frame for all the registered voters to participate in the nomination of candidates.
Although dhamngoi zomdus are not considered elections, voters cast their votes to select their nominees from the chiwogs.
The aspiring candidates who Kuensel talked to said that voters of rural households take turns to go to polling booths, and that the short duration of the zomdus would make it difficult for all the eligible voters to cast their votes.
One of the aspiring gup candidates from Udzorong gewog in Trashigang, Dorji Tshering, said some of the households are quite a distance away from the polling stations.
“I think it would be convenient for all the voters to cast their votes if the dhamngoi zomdu is held from 9am to 3pm, if not up to 5pm,” he said.
The zomdus, he said, should be treated as important as the main elections, and that all the registered voters should get the opportunity to nominate candidates.
Tsheten Wangdi, one of the aspiring gups from Lhuentse’s Tsaenkhar gewog, also said that the time was limited for the participation of all the voters. “Some of the voters have to walk a long distance to reach zomdu stations,” he said.
One of the aspiring candidates of Silambi gewog in Mongar, Dorji Wangchuk, said many households in his chiwog are scattered in remote pockets, which are not connected with roads.
“I’m not sure whether all of my supporters will make it to the zomdu as many of them are cattle herders,” he said, adding that the time should be extended.
One of the former gups from Chhukha said that voters of his gewog had adequate time in the 2016 zomdu. The aspiring gup said that the allotted time this year would be a disadvantage for some of the aspiring candidates whose supporters reside in far-flung areas.
One of the aspiring candidates from Pemaling gewog in Samtse, Khem Raj Ghalley, said that voters from some of the remote chiwogs had to walk long distances to reach the zomdu, as road connectivity was still a problem.
However, ECB’s spokesperson, Phub Dorji, said that past experience had shown that three hours is enough for a zomdu. He said that not all the voters would vote at the zomdu.
“This is not the first time we are conducting zomdus like this,” he said, adding that there would be a time cushion in the case of zomdus where large numbers of voters turn up.
One of the mangmi candidates said that the time was enough for chiwogs with fewer or no candidates. But a time cushion should be provided for chiwogs that have more than one candidate.
One of the aspiring candidates from Pemagatshel said that he was waiting for clear information from the gewog administration. He said that although the dzongkhag had worked out a schedule for all the chiwogs, the gewog administration needed to disseminate it to villagers.
Dhamngoi zomdus will be held from November 3 to 20, and the election will be held on December 22.
Candidates will begin their campaigns on November 25 and conclude on December 20. This means that the candidates will have 26 days for campaigning.
If there is no candidate selected after the last date for the filing of candidate nominations notified herein, the elections will be postponed until further notice.
Edited by Tshering Palden