Gender mattered in the two dzongkhag elections

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Although there was significant increase in the participation of female aspiring gup candidates in Tsirang and Dagana, none were elected to the position in either of the dzongkhags.

The lone female Tashiding gup candidate in Dagana, Namgay Pelden, who contested for the third term, lost to her contender, Ratna Bahadhur Singer by 315 votes.

Namgay Pelden said that she lost because she couldn’t carry out door-to-door campaigns as she was in the last trimester of her pregnancy. “My friends and supporters were surprised by the result.”  Namgay Pelden is expected to deliver the baby within the next few days.

Out of the 44 aspiring gup candidates who were selected from the dhamngoi zomdus, she was the only female candidate in the dzongkhag.


Gender matters?

Meanwhile in Tsirang, none of the three female gup aspirants out of 39 gup candidates got elected for the position.

Neem Lhamo Moktan from Barshong gewog, who is the first woman gup candidate from the gewog lost to the former gup, Santa Lal Powdel by 16 votes.

The master’s degree holder who earlier said that she wanted to set an example for other women who would be interested in taking up the opportunities in local government (LG), said that she lost this election because there was less awareness about women leadership among the public in remote areas.

Sharing incidents of how people discouraged her based on her gender, she said that she experienced prejudices during the door-to-door campaign. “I was told that as a woman, I cannot lead and cannot bring development in the gewog. Gender plays a vital role in elections.”

“Lack of experience also played a major role in my loss. The public thought they could not trust me because I was young and unmarried,” she added.

The delayed result also dismayed the young candidate. She said that she waited late into the night with anticipation for the election results to be declared, but in vain. “The Election Commission of Bhutan should train the polling officers well so that they are efficient in what they do.”

“We observed that the polling officers were confused and nervous,” she said.

In Mendrelgang gewog, gup candidate Pem Choden Tamang lost by a difference of eight votes to the former gup, Yeshi, who has been in the position for more than two decades.

She got a total vote of 578 compared to Yeshi’s 586 votes.

Out of three female mangmi candidates in Tsirang, one each from Kilkhorthang and Patshaling gewogs were elected. Out of 19 aspiring tshogpa candidates, only two women, from Mendrelgang and Tsholingkhar gewogs, were elected to the post.

In Dagana, out of 21 female tshogpa candidates, only two female candidates from Drujeygang gewog were elected. Gozhi mangmi was the only female candidate elected to the position.

There were 44 mangmi aspiring candidates in the dzongkhag.

A voter, Kharkha Bdr. Pulami, 64, from Tsirang said that public wanted an able LG leader instead of considering age, gender, and qualification. “It is important to elect the best candidate.”

Some voters, however, said that age or academic qualification did not matter in LG elections. “Bhutanese still think that men make best leaders. Women should be given opportunities to lead,” said a voter.