Forty year-old Singye Dorji started his journey at 6:30am from Neytse village to attend the common forum at the Tsakaling gewog centre in Mongar on September 4. It took him an hour and half on foot to reach Tsakaling Primary School’s multipurpose hall, where the common forum for Mongar constituency was held. 

His journey was not worth it, he said. “The common forum is very important but with limited time, I didn’t understand,” he said. He said each candidate has to explain more on how, what and why of their pledges. “How can I vote based on limited information.” 

Other voters like Singye Dorji also felt that the time was limited at the common forum. A resident, Jampel Yangzom, 57, said that to elect a government every five years is a gift from the throne and had the election commission given the candidates an additional 10 minutes to speak, the people would be better informed. “It is a waste of time to attend few minutes of talk,” she said. 

Party candidates also felt that the time given to them at the common forum was limited.  People’s Democratic Party’s candidate, Sonam Dhendup, said that with limited time, it is difficult to share the pledges let alone explain them and that the candidates fail to convince the public. 

“The very purpose of common forum is defeated if participants don’t understand,” said Sonam Dhendup. He said another five or 10 minutes is needed.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s candidate, Sonam Choiten, also said 10 minutes is too short and they had failed to inform the people well.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa candidate ,Sherab Gyeltshen, said the gewog common forum is important. If candidates were given 30 minutes to talk, there would be no need for door-to-door campaigning. “There will be free and fair election. The door-to-door campaign is a place where corruption takes place.”

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s candidate, Karma Lhamo, said that despite the good attendance, the time provided to candidates during the session was limited. 

“The election of National Council member and election of National Assembly member is different,” said Karma Lhamo. ECB could provide 20 minutes talk time to ensure that people do not waste their time.

The gewog common forum started from August 29 for Mongar constituency. The common forum will complete on September 7. The candidates said that so far the turnout for the meeting has been good in every common forum. 

Tashi Phuntsho | Tsakaling