LG: The seven candidates contesting the local government elections in Lunana, Gasa will not campaign door-to-door for practical reasons.

It is strange given strong competition and the tight schedule of other LG candidates to campaign till the last minute before the black-out period on September 25.

Contestants and election officials said the villages are scattered and far from each other. Most chiwogs are a one-day walk from another.

“It would take us more than a month to reach every household,” the gup candidate, Kaka said.

The men have returned with rations and most of the women and children are still in the mountains with their livestock which makes door-to-door campaigning impossible within the given time.

Kaka had just returned in time for the common forum meetings after filing his nomination papers.

Lunana is the furthest of gewogs in the country. It takes 10 days to get to the gewog centre from the nearest road point in Gasa.

The gewog has only seven candidates, one each for the posts of gup, mangmi, and a lone tshogpa candidate each for the five chiwogs. People will be voting for or against candidates with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes.

Kaka is the lone candidate for gup after securing about 85 percent of votes in the chiwog zomdu against another nominee from Thanza-Toenchoe chiwog.

There are a few items that are on his priority and to-do list: farm roads towards Lunana from either Sephu or Goenshari.

“These roads are in the Plan but we need to them to reach closer to the gewog; I’ll work for it,” Kaka said. “The three mule tracks need urgent maintenance too. We also need a village temple.”

Former gup and mangmi are not contesting in this elections.

“The communities have to coax people to stand for elections,” Lunana gewog administrative officer, Sherab Chophel said.

The candidates are small in number because there are only a few literate people available in the gewog.

Moreover, the highlanders earn more than the local government officials, which is why not many are eager to stand for elections. Local leaders also need to travel frequently and have to make dangerous journey over treacherous terrain and swollen rivers.

Lunana gewog’s Raminang-Uesuna chiwog has 45 voters, Lhedi has 67, Shang-Trhelge-Wachey has 57, Thangza-Toenchoe has 205, and Tshozhong has 79. There are six polling stations in the gewog. “Because some settlements are so far way in Shang-Threlge-Wachey, we’ll set up two polling stations there,” Lunana-Khamae returning officer Ugyen Chophel said.

Other chiwogs in most of the gewogs saw poor turn out at common forums. Election officials attributed this to farmers having to guard their crops from wild animals. “Most of the residents have two houses and they reside elsewhere out of the gewog,” a returning officer said.

The gewog will start its common forums today.

The LG election contestants have also chosen not to use any campaigning materials such as posters, banners, and pamphlets.

The election Act allows candidates to use advertisement materials and a campaign fund of Nu 50,000. Public Election Fund Rules and Regulations 2012 allows hiring of vehicles, canvassing and election rallies, and production of manifestos, among others.

Tshering Palden | Damji

Supported by Bhutan Media Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation