Except for party presidents and vice presidents, attending common forums for political candidates for the primary round is mandatory for all candidates, according to the Election Commission of Bhutan.

But the commission has also considered cases where some candidates for unavoidable circumstances were unable to attend the scheduled common forums.

According to election officials, the party leaders are exempted from attending common forums because they campaign for the party in all dzongkhags. “Party presidents travel across the country unlike the candidates who can’t campaign in other places,” the commission’s spokesperson Sonam Tobgyal said.

This was the reason why the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President had nominated a representative to attend the common forum in Sombaykha constituency in Haa.

Last week, representatives of the four political parties in Haa’s Sombaykha constituency requested the commission to cancel the common forum in Ngetsena chiwog citing roadblocks and swollen streams.Besides PDP, the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) had also nominated a representative to attend the common forum. The BKP candidate has a baby who travels with her.

According to the returning officer in Haa, Dr Jambay Dorji, they allowed the BKP candidate to nominate a representative because she has a baby and making it mandatory for her to attend the common forum in a remote place would also affect the baby. “We sought permission from the election commission because we didn’t want the baby to suffer,” he said. “ But it is mandatory for her to attend other common forums scheduled in places that are accessible by road.”

He said that the nominated representative has to be authorised by the commission and should be registered with the returning officer’s office before the commencement of the campaigning period.

Around the same time, the commission also considered a request from the BKP candidate in Zhemgang to not attend the common forum in Langdrubri chiwog in Bardo gewog. According to the election officials there, Langdrubri is remote and the candidate cited problems with her knees.

The commission also considered the third request from BKP’s Bongo_Chabcha candidate in Chukha to skip the common forum in Getena gewog. Chukha’s returning officer Phenday Wangchuk said the candidate had to attend a cremation of a relative and his request was considered after seeking permission from the commission.

To provide the contesting political parties and candidates equal opportunity to address the electorate while reducing the necessity to call for public meetings separately, the commission arranges common forums in each gewog/chiwog/ dzongkhag thromde for both the primary and general elections. Common forum for the primary round of election began on August 27.

Staff reporter