Dechen Dolkar 

In an encouraging development, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has extended postal ballot services to some sections of the private sector for the National Council elections.

It was learnt that the ECB has extended postal ballot services to private school teachers, private training institutes, tour operators and hoteliers in the tourism sector.

However, some question why the ECB is not providing such facilities to other sectors.

It was learnt that State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) employees applied for the postal ballot services and were rejected.

According to the Election Act, postal ballots are eligible for diplomats and persons working in the embassies and their spouses and dependents, persons residing outside Bhutan for the performance of a special government duty; members of the armed forces; civil servants and their dependents and spouses; students and trainees; and any other group of voters as specified by the Commission in consultation with the government.

The spokesperson of ECB, Phub Dorji, said that postal ballot services are provided to those people who were eligible as per the Election Act.

He said that the commission has also extended postal ballot services to Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) companies like Bhutan Power Corporation since they are critical service providers needed to provide the continuous power supply.

When asked to commission who all were extended postal ballot services other than who are eligible as the Act and why it was extended, ECB refused to share the details.

It was learnt that private school teachers were registered for postal ballot services except for Yonten Kuenjung Academy in Phuentsholing.

It was learnt that the ECB has directed the Department of Tourism to register employees of the tourism sector for postal ballots services. The department has registered postal ballot services for the employees of 3-star and above hotels and tour operators registered with the department.

Similarly, around 83 employees of iBEST institute in Thimphu have also registered for the postal ballot services. Around 70 people are doing internships and are employed with the company.

The spokesperson said that the postal ballot service is extended to iBEST since they are an institute providing training.

Meanwhile, postal ballot registration for NC elections from overseas has decreased this year. A total of 676 have registered from overseas. In January 2023, the foreign minister said that there were 32,258 Bhutanese living overseas in 113 countries. Perth in Australia alone is estimated to have more than 15,000 Bhutanese.

However, the ECB has extended postal ballot services only to students. As per the record, there are more than 1,000 students currently studying in Perth.