Party candidates from all four political parties in Samtse’s two constituencies, Phuentshogpelri-Samtse and Ugyentse-Yoeseltse, have decided to forgo the chiwog level common forums.

Candidates say the common forums are not turning out as expected.

This comes after only 29 people turned up at a chiwog common forum under Phuentshogpelri-Samtse constituency.

Phuentshogpelri-Samtse returning officer (RO), Lotay Tenzin, said chiwog forums had very poor turnout.

“We thought chiwog forums would establish more reach but it didn’t,” he said. “Candidates then decided to cancel the chiwog forums.”

Without these forums, candidates would also get time to conduct more door-to-door campaigns.

The poor turnout is attributed to the cardamom harvest season.

Lotay Tenzin said candidates had told that they were even not finding people during door-to-door campaigns.

People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate from Phuentshogpelri-Samtse, DN Dhungyel, said it’s hard to find people in their homes these days.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s (BKP) candidate from the same constituency, Sabitman Rai, said the candidates had been in two chiwogs and the turnout was not good.

“Many homes were locked when I went for the campaign,” he said, adding that some homes in villages had only children.

The other reason for the poor turnout is also because of the paddy weeding time.

In the vast lands of paddy fields between Samtse town and Tashichholing (Sipsu) Gola Bazaar, farmers are busy in their green paddy fields.

Samtse’s election officer, Tshering Phuntsho, said they inform chiwog tshogpas to ask people to attend the meeting, who then visit each and every household to inform the people.

He said that although there is a low turnout during the chiwog level common forums, they understand the value of voting.

However, observers say that most people do not attend common forums because they have already decided which party to vote for.

People say most do not attend the common forums because they do not understand what the candidates are saying.

A villager from Majua village in Norbugang (Chengmari), Nar Bahadur, said that candidates should make it a point to call people prior to visits for door-to-door campaigns.

“At least one person would remain at home,” he said. “Otherwise, there would be no one and the candidates would miss the chance.”

Ugyentse-Yoeseltse constituency’s RO, Karma Tenzin, said the party candidates had agreed to cancel the chiwog common forums.

“Candidates said that people did not come in the forums,” he said.

Meanwhile, chiwog common forums are still continued in other two constituencies of Samtse, Dophuchen-Tading and Tashichhoeling.

The RO of the Dophuchen-Tading in Samtse, Karma Lodroe said they are conducting the common forums as per the schedule.

The constituency has about 12 common forums including gewog level common forums.

Tashichhoeling’s RO, Nima Tshering, said that they are conducting the chiwog level common forums. “We are conducting common forums in the far-flung areas at the moment.”

He said they have covered three chiwogs of a gewog inTashichhoeling constituency. “Of the four gewogs, three have not been covered yet.”

Meanwhile, Tshering Phuntsho, said gewog level common forums are mandatory and candidates have to participate.

Rajesh Rai | Samtse