With 5,619 election officials fanning out across the country to man 866 polling stations, the Election Commission of Bhutan says it is prepared for the National Council poll day today.

The last task the commission completed before heading home late on the eve of the poll day was going through reports that various departments and dzongkhags submitted.

Chief Election Commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said the election machinery is in ready mode. “We are looking forward to the poll day, as much as all voters,” he said. “Candidates and stakeholders are excited to participate in this historic national council poll day to fulfill our natural responsibility with commitment and pride.”

A total of 432,030 people are eligible to vote today. Women comprise 51.13 percent of the eligible voters, and men 48.87 percent. Among the dzongkhags, Trashigang, with 46,983 eligible voters has the largest voter population while Gasa with 2,000 voters has the least. A total of 88,915 registered as postal voters.

“We are eagerly waiting for the next few hours and with everything going smoothly, it will definitely be a free and fair election,” commissioner Deki Pema said. “We expect people to come forward and take their responsibility to vote seriously.”

On February 16, the commission put the election process in motion by issuing a notification calling the third National Council elections. With 127 candidates including 12 incumbent members, the third national council election has the highest number of contestants vying for a seat in the upper house of the parliament. Of the total, 73 are in their 30s. The 2008 council elections had 52 candidates while 67 candidates contested in 2013.

The highest number of polling officials, 474 are deployed in Trashigang, which has 79 polling stations followed by 456 officials in 77 polling stations in Mongar. Gasa has the least polling stations where about 66 officials are deployed at 11 polling stations.

To make this election, Mission 2018, an inclusive exercise, the commission set up 69 postal ballot facilitation and nine mobile booths across the country. ECB officials say that of the 60,590 (30,001 female and 30,589 male) people who registered to vote through these facilities, a total of 42,441(20,637 female and 21,804 male) turned up to cast their vote from April 12 -15. Of the total votes, 699 (65 female and 634 male) voted at the nine mobile facilitation booths. 

The commission recorded a voter turnout of 70 percent at the booths. Lhuentse, at 81 percent, saw the highest voter turn out at the facilitation booths among the dzongkhags while Pemagatshel saw the least voter turnout of 62 percent.

The election commission has announced the poll day a public holiday and all offices and businesses will remain closed. “Employers are reminded that as per Section 338 of the Election Act, 2008, any employee desiring leave of absence for travelling to vote at their respective polling stations must be granted leave of reasonable period,” the commission’s announcement states.

The polling hours will be from 9am to 5pm and voters are reminded to bring their Voter Photo Identity Card (VPIC) to enable verification in the polling stations. “All registered voters are urged to come out to vote to ensure that you exercise your franchise and have your say.”

Meanwhile, the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology forecasts light to moderate rain over southern and eastern parts of the country today. Towards the evening, light rain is expected in the rest of the dzongkhags. “Thunderstorm is also expected at isolated places of southern, eastern and central parts of the country during the next 48 hours.”

  Election officials set up the national result centre at the Democracy House in Thimphu