As the primary round of the third National Assembly (NA) elections nears, party candidates of Kabisa-Talo constituency in Punakha shared concerns over rumors of corrupt practices to win votes for individual parties.

Although the election office in Punakha has not received a single written complaint against any party members, the candidates said they have heard of such rumors.

Druk Nyamrup Tshopa’s (DNT) candidate, Tshencho Wangdi, said that although unseen, rumours of voters being threatened and bribed was a concern.

“Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is working to fight such cases. The people in the village are innocent. If such activities take place, I am worried about how fair the election is going to go. And if that party wins by chance, how would it benefit the people.”

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) candidate, Kinley Wangchuk shared similar concerns.

He said that although he had no evidence, he had heard of people pressuring voters to vote for a particular party. “I heard they take numbers and call people. I haven’t put forward a complaint because it is just what we hear. And as I don’t do such activity, I am hopeful that they don’t do it either.”

While the candidates are concerned over such rumors, they also added that it could be to defame each other.

People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, Tshering Dorji, said he has heard the rumours. However, he said he had not paid it much heed. “Supporters tell me of such rumors. If one can prove it with evidence then we should file a complaint, otherwise rather than pointing fingers at other, we should work harder and get more supporters.”

The election officials said that until recently there had been no rumors of such incidences in the dzongkhag. However, for information received, election officials had visited the fields to verify.

Officials said the rumours could have spread because the poll day is nearing.

Apart from concerns over such rumors, the candidates have almost completed their door-to-door campaign.

The candidates said that meeting the people was a challenge as most were working in the fields. Poor road condition due to the monsoon was another challenge.

Tshencho Wangdi said that according to the election commission, while campaigning door-to-door, the candidates were not allowed to meet people in groups, which he said wasn’t practical in the field. “The houses are clustered and when we go for door-to-door campaign, the people sometimes are together at one house for work.”

Other candidates also shared similar incidences.

ECB had earlier instructed election officials that it was okay to meet the people in groups provided the party workers had not called the villagers for a gathering.

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha