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… also claims there is no provision that mandates them to announce the result on poll day

Dechen Dolkar 

While many people are still curious why the local government (LG) election provisional results were delayed, unlike the usual practice, officials from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) claimed the results were not delayed.

ECB spokesperson Phub Dorji, who is also the director of the secretariat service, said that as per their notification issued on October 27, the results were to be announced the next day on December 23.

“There is no provision or obligation that ECB must announce results on the poll day,” he said.

He, however, claimed to have shared the provisional results with Bhutan Broadcasting Services (BBS) by 10pm that night. “BBS announced the provisional results available until 1am and the rest were announced on December 23 by 6pm.”

Usually, election provisional results were shared with the media within two to three hours after closing the polls and declared. However, in the last election, results got delayed and some of the returning officers (ROs) were still compiling the results at midnight.




Phub Dorji said the recent election was conducted under unusual circumstances due to the pandemic with less movement of people.  

He said that during the elections, not a single person was affected by Covid-19 and the general public should appreciate the ECB for conducting smooth elections for 3,521 candidates and about 300,000 voters. “There are also many electoral officials and security officials, but there were no mishaps.”

However, officials from BBS said that they could not get provisional results for some gewogs on the poll day.

An official said BBS announced results only for dzongkhags from which they received results.

He also said they announced the results until 1am.

 

Returning Officers

However, the ROs Kuensel talked to said there was a delay in provisional results because of the SMS application, which was not working properly.

They explained that when all presiding officers sent messages together, the SMS service got jammed.

It was learnt the ECB used an SMS app to collect and consolidate election results on the poll day.

The ROs also said that while counting through EVM machines was easy, they took time to count votes cast through mobile booths, facilitation booths, and from overseas, as there were many people who availed those services.




They said that they started counting the ballots at 8am, but could only complete the counting by 11:30pm on poll day.

“We were told that the ECB system crashed and they could not view the overseas postal ballots,” a RO said.

Some ROs also said that they were able to compile the result by 10.30pm that night.

“The delay was due to a large number of candidates in LG, and the inclusion of the facilitation ballot took more time to count,” one said. “The ECB system was jammed and results could not be uploaded to the dashboard.”

Some ROs also claimed that since the ECB has provided services to the voters with three different facilitation booths, there is a shortage of human resources deployed for elections for counting the votes. “If there are designated officials to count votes from different facilitation booths, it would have finished earlier.”

Kuensel learnt that since the SMS app was not working, ROs were asked to send the results in Google Sheets, which took time.

 

Candidates

One of the elected gups said that the EVM result was out, but he had to wait for the postal ballot votes. In the EVM, his votes were the lowest among the gup candidates.

“I waited until 11pm for the result. Still, the result didn’t come out. I went to bed,” he said. “Around 1am, one of my friends called me to tell me that I won.”

He said he didn’t believe it, until he received a screenshot.




In an earlier interview with Kuensel, a gup-elect said that he only found out about the results on December 23.

He said one of his friends shared an online post that had the results.

Some candidates said they waited past midnight at the RO offices for results.

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