The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has allowed candidates to talk about their manifestos and pledges in local dialect at the common forums.

The session in local dialect is, however, informal and conducted after the formal session in Dzongkha. The candidates are given 20 minutes to speak in whichever local dialect is best understood by the voters.

According to the recent notification from the commission, the informal sessions on local dialects are to be observed by the National Observers (NO).

Election officials in Tsirang said that the commission had allowed candidates to speak in local dialect since the 2008 general elections. “But it was not practiced widely,” an official said.

Officials said, allowing local dialect is primarily to discuss the manifesto with clarity and for better understanding of the pledges.

Party candidates in Tsirang said it was a good initiative of ECB to allow them to communicate with voters in the local dialect.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) Sergithang-Tsirangtoed candidate, Kewal Ram Adhikari, said everybody would now get a chance to understand the manifestos and pledges and make an informed decision.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) candidate, Garjaman Rai, said voters might have understood what they have to offer in the common forum. “It’s difficult to cover all households during door-to-door campaign.

DPT’s Kilkhorthang-Mendrelgang candidate, Yangku Tshering Sherpa, said that it was his first time speaking in local dialect in an election campaign meeting. “It is always better for us to speak our pledges and ideologies in a language voters understand.”

DNT’s candidate, Bimal Thapa, also said that although the local dialect session doesn’t suffice door-to-door campaigning, it is much easier for the candidates to talk about their pledges.

Meanwhile, voters in Tsirang attended the informal sessions more attentively when important pledges were highlighted.

Nar Bahadur Pradhan, 65, was one of the voters attending the common forum in Doonglagang yesterday.

He said that being illiterate and living in the village, he could not understand Dzongkha when spoken in formal meetings. “That’s why I did not attend common forums in the past knowing that I will not understand what the candidates say.”

He said that he attended a common forum for the first time yesterday, as he was told that there would be a session in the local dialect. “Now I understand what the candidates have to offer. I can make an informed choice.”

Nar Bahadur said there are seven people in his family and they depend on him to decide whom to vote for.

Another voter, LB Thapa, 80, in Tsholingkhar said that although candidates come door-to-door campaigning, they do not have time to spell out all the pledges.

“It is only during common forums where candidates explain their manifestos in detail. It is in these meetings that people can decide which candidate or party has promises most relevant to them.”

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang