Voter education programmes are in full swing across the country

Elections: In an effort to ensure the upcoming local government (LG) elections are a success, election officials are trying to reach every nook and corner of the country to spread the message of adult franchise.

Low voter turnout in local government elections has been a concern for the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).

Only 31 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballot in the first phase of the second elections held in January this year. Voter turnout decreased by 19.75 percent from the first thromde election in 2011.

Election officials said voter education programmes are in full swing across the country and that they are leaving no stone unturned to reach out to every section of the electorate. The election will be held in July, but the process will begin in June.

Election officials are also encouraging registered voters within 25 to 65 years of age to partake in the elections as candidates, for which it is a must to pass the functional literacy test (FLT).

Lack of candidates with FLT certificates has been one of the main problems facing local government elections. The number of eligible candidates, however, is likely to increase when the ECB holds a round of FLT in all 20 dzongkhags on April 30.

Chief election officer Phub Dorji said the deadline for aspiring candidates to submit FLT forms will close today.

As of April 13, the ECB had received 2,700 forms and the number is expected to increase.

There are 5,165 probable candidates who possess FLT certificates according to records maintained by the ECB.

All registered voters from 25 to 65 years of age have been encouraged to register for the test. Candidates who possess FLT certificates will not be required to appear the test again.

The FLT will be conducted in 205 gewogs and 17 dzongkhag thromdes for the second local government election this year. FLT centres will be taken to gewogs to make access easier for the people.

The questions will cover letter writing and basic mathematics, among others. Letter writing is one of the important skills required for local leaders.

A candidate’s analytical skills and knowledge of current affairs will be tested. They will also have to read and understand passages.

An FLT certificate is mandatory for those vying for the posts of gup, mangmi, tshogpa and thuemi.

MB Subba