A 68 percent increase from Nu 148.5M in 2013

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has earmarked Nu 250 million (M) for the third National Council (NC) elections.

This is a 68 percent increase from Nu 148.5M in 2013.

Expenditures include the costs of materials and deployment of human resources for the three-month election period.

The ECB attributes the expenditure increase to factors such as the hike in civil servants’ TA/DA in 2014 and an increased number of candidates.

From 52 in the first NC elections in 2008, the number of candidates increased to 67 in 2013. With the completion of dhamngoi zomdu yesterday, 130 candidates have been selected.

However, the number can be confirmed only when the nominations close on March 19.

The campaign fund ceiling for each candidate has been revised from Nu 130,000 in 2013 to Nu 150,000. Funds are spent on campaign office spaces, utilities like water, telephone and electricity and goods and services for direct campaign purposes.

The ECB allows candidates to spend the funds for hire of vehicles for campaign purposes and renting of office automation equipment during elections, among other purposes as permitted by the commission.

However, candidates cannot serve meals or refreshments to the public or voters. Distributing goods such as T-shirts and caps are also not allowed.

An election official said that the commission is also planning to procure some Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). There are today about 4,000 EVMs, he said.

“We want to procure EVMs in phases so that the government is not burdened,” he said. Some EVMs, he added, were lost in a fire incident.

Some of the materials procured for the NC elections, he said, would be used during the National Assembly elections. “No materials will go to waste as the NC elections will be followed by elections for the National Assembly,” he said.

The elections will be held on April 20 across all 20 dzongkhags.

A total of Nu 99.49M was spent in the first NC elections in 2008.

The ECB will set up 866 poling booths and 64 postal ballot facilitation booths across 20 dzongkhags. Each booth will have five polling officials.

The facilitation booths are a new arrangement, which enable eligible postal voters to cast their votes in person from the dzongkhag of their residence. They will be opened for voters on April 12, 13 and 14 at identified locations.

There will be about 6,814 officials on election duty. This figure does not include security personnel, media arbitrators and other officials.

There are 20 returning officers and 27 assistant returning officers in the field. There will be as many national observers and micro observers.

Dzongdags will act as chief election coordinators in their respective dzongkhags, while 205 gewog administrative officers and the executive officers of four thromdes are assistant chief election coordinators.

Dzongrabs and drungpas will work as deputy chief election coordinators.

Each dzongkhag will also have a social media monitor to assist the Media Arbitrator.

MB Subba