The commission however maintains that there is no need to amend the Election Act 

LG: With the completion of the functional literacy test (FLT) in the three thromdes of Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu earlier this month, there are now 5,165 perspective candidates across the country for the upcoming local government elections.

Lack of candidates with FLT certificates has been one of the issues in local government elections. However, the number of eligible candidates is likely to increase when the election commission holds fresh rounds of FLT across the country in the coming months.

Chief Election Commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said the centres for conducting FLT would be taken to gewog centres to make it easier for people to sit for the test. “We will try to take the test centers from Dzongkhag to Gewogs to make it more accessible,” he said.

Twelve persons sat for the FLT on December 7 in the three thromdes, and 11 of them passed the exams. The one who failed was from Phuentsholing thromde.

In Thimphu, a lone candidate sat for the FLT. Five persons in Sarpang and six in Chukha appeared the test.

However, candidates who already possess the certificates do not have to sit for the test again. Once an individual obtains a certificate for functional literacy test, the commission accepts these certificates for subsequent bye-elections or LG elections.

The election commission however did not reveal the poll dates. Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said the date for polls would be announced soon as the tenure of these thromdes concludes in early 2016.

“We are ready for the conduct of thromde elections in a free and fair manner,” he said.

According to electoral rules, announcement and notification regarding the poll dates will be issued not later than 90 days before their tenure ends. The local government would be reconstituted on the date their term expires as per electoral laws.

The election commission plans to hold elections for thrompons and thromde thuemi simultaneously. “A major change from the first thromde elections will be the election of thromde thuemi at the same time as the elections for thrompons and thromde tshogpas,” he said.

He said the local government machinery would continue functioning even during the election period, but elected members who wish to re-contest should relinquish office. “If incumbent elected officials wish to contest then they must have demitted their office to participate in the nomination process,” he said.

This is to ensure a level-playing field, which the election commission believes is vital to free and fair elections.

Meanwhile, the chief election commissioner maintained there was no need to amend the election Act and that issues, if any could be solved by amending the rules and procedures. The National Council recently passed a resolution to amend the Election Act 2008.

“We respect the concerns raised by any and all tsugdes  (institutions) of democracy,” he said. “We found that most issues raised are genuine but can be addressed through adopting or amending rules and regulations without the need for an amendment of the Act,” he said.

In particular, he said the election commission is confident that all stakeholders will strive to strengthen democracy in line with the provisions of the Tsathrim Chenmo, of which the Election Act is an embodiment under which series of Parliamentary elections and Local Government elections were conducted.

MB Subba