LG: Even as the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) concluded the historic second local government (LG) elections in September last year, some local governments remain handicapped due to a lack of elected members.

The gup of Dangchu gewog in Wangdue, Sonam Dorji, resigned soon after he was sworn in. In absence of a gewog tshogde (GT) chairman, the mangmi has been officiating, but his powers do not suffice.

One of the five chiwogs in the gewog also remains vacant.

However, much to the relief of the gewog, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has called for  by-elections in the geowg. The by-elections will be held on March 6.

By-elections should be held within three months from the day the constituency falls vacant. The former gup resigned on November 15 and left as a dependent of his wife who is pursuing higher education in Australia.

Zomdus for the selection of gup candidates will begin from February 4. Those selected in the zomdus will have until February 14 to file their nomination documents.

The gewog’s mangmi Sonam Dorji said the gewog has been facing inconveniences in absence of their gup. The problem is coupled with a lack of a gewog administrative officer (GAO) and a gewog clerk.

“However, we have been assured that the dzongkhag administration office will soon depute a GAO,” he said. “We are facing a lot of inconveniences,” Sonam Dorji said.

According to the ECB, a zomdu will be held in every chiwog of Dangchhu gewog by the dzongkhag election office for selecting not more than one candidate from each chiwog for the post of gup. Electronic voting machines (EVM) will be used in chiwog zomdus.

The mangmi said no candidates have come forward so far. There are about 1,400 voters in the gewog, but he added that the number could have increased.

Questions on whether the former gup should be asked to refund the election expenses have been raised. The electoral laws allow for an elected member to resign.

However, sources said no law mandates an elected member of the LG to refund the election expenses. “People can’t tell someone to refund the election expenses without any legal basis,”the source said.

The electoral roll used for the second local government 2016 will be used as the basis with further revision as per the qualifying date. This means all those registered in the final electoral roll will be eligible to vote.

No ministers, members of Parliament, officials or members of a political party will be allowed to campaign directly or indirectly for any candidate.

A candidate cannot exceed his or her election campaign expense beyond the total of Nu 50,000.

If there is no candidate after the last date for filing of nomination of candidates, the election will be postponed till further notice. If there is only one candidate after the last date of filing of nomination of candidates, an uncontested election will be conducted.

MB Subba