… second Local Govt. sees more women candidates and leaders

Yearender | LG: Despite some hiccups in the electoral process, the Monkey was a historic year as the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) successfully concluded the second Local Government (LG) elections since the adoption of the Constitution in 2008.

The country now has in almost in all local government constituencies representatives directly elected by the people. Many of them are qualified and are expected to contribute in strengthening the local governance system.

His Majesty The King awarded the symbolic patang (sword) to the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) chairpersons during the National Day celebrations held at Trongsa Dzong. This was by far the most significant event in terms of recognising the importance of local governments.

This was for the first time DT chairpersons received the patang.

The government under the leadership of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has stressed that it places the people in the centre of the development process. The government believes that the people should be involved in the developmental process and that that can only be done by empowering them.

People are today better aware of their civic rights than they were a few years ago. The second local government elections held in September 27, 2016 saw more educated candidates and was intensely contested.

The participation of voters was equally crucial in making the elections a success. The election saw intense lobbying in most of the gewogs, thromdes and chiwogs.

The second LG elections saw a voter turn out of 55.8 percent. This is a slight decrease from 56.23 percent in the first LG elections in 2011.

Nationwide, 22,4460 out of the total of 402,149 registered voters cast their ballots. Postal ballots accounted for 15.6 percent of the total ballots cast in the elections.

The ECB described the elections as “historic”. Despite some problems, the elections went smoothly with active participation of the electorate.

A total of 1,423 candidates were elected as gup, mangmi and gewog tshogpa, thrompon and thromde tshogpas and thromde ngotshabs. Out of the total, 432 had previously held elective posts in local governments.

Although elections were called for a total of 1,477 constituencies, there were no elections held in 41 chiwogs due to lack of candidates. Gasa, Mongar and Pemagatshel dzongkhags did not get thromde ngotshab candidates.

All 205 gup posts were filled and included two women gups, both of whom are from Dagana. In the first LG elections, only one woman gup was elected.

A total of 203 mangmi constituencies have been filled, out of which 23 are women.

Although 150 university graduates contested the elections, only 40 were elected.

The LG elections had to be postponed to allow incumbent members to complete their five-year term in office. Initially, it was planned in July 2016.

The second thromde elections were concluded on January 25, 2016.

Two of the four dzongkhag thromdes saw re-election of their first thrompons – Kinlay Dorji of Thimphu and Karma Sherab Thobgay of Samdrupjongkhar. Phuentsholing and Gelephu thromdes elected new thrompons – Uttar Kumar Rai and Tikaram Kafley respectively.

Although the ECB and the government initially planned to elect thrompons in all two dzongkhags, a surprise writ issued by the Supreme Court suspended the proposed thromde elections in the rest of the 16 dzongkhags. The Supreme Court stated that it was not logical to constitute a thromde in all dzongkhags as most of the dzongkhags are small in population and area.

This came as a setback both for the government and the ECB which were planning for the elections. The Supreme Court also nullified the post of “thromde thurmi” elected to represent the dzongkhag thromde in the DT.

A fresh round of the functional literary and competency test (FLT) was concluded on February 3. This has added to the list of eligible candidates. There are now more than 3,000 probable candidates with FLT certificates.

Some LG constituencies remain vacant due to lack of candidates. There are about 60 various LG posts up for grabs, including a gup post in Drangchu gewog in Wangdue.

Without representatives, some local governments have remained handicapped. The Phuentsholing Thromde and a few gewogs have remained without quorums to constitute tshogdes that are decision-making bodies.

However, the ECB is expected to soon call for elections in those vacant constituencies.

In a recent development local leaders have welcomed, the government is expected to provide a pay raise by the next budget session of parliament. A pay commission has been formed to revise the salaries and emoluments of local leaders.

MB Subba