Lhakpa Quendren | Tsirang

The last common forum for Damphu Throm, Tsirang on April 9 at the Damphu Middle Secondary School saw only 16 voters including five females. The thromde has about 250 eligible voters.

However, this was not an exception. At the end of the common forum for the National Council elections in Tsirang, dzongkhag election officials said that voter turnout at the common forums has been dismal.

The common forum at Damphu throm, which was supposed to begin by 9am, saw only three voters. They waited for an hour. Even after the thromde ngotsab went back to the town to call for participation, only 13 turned up.

Tsirang Dzongkhag’s Chief Election Coordinator and Dzongdag, Sonam, expressed his concerns over the poor voter turnout. “We are disappointed with the poor turnout. But we will not give up and we will not fail.”

He said that the voter turnout was expected to see an increase during the first common forum at Toed-sang in Barshong, but they were left disappointed. “The same is here at the thromde.”

“I understand everyone is busy on the weekends with their businesses, but it is also important to take part in the election process. This is the opportunity that comes only once in five years,” he said.

Urging voters to come out in large numbers on the poll day on April 20, Dzongdag Sonam said, “We urge voters to call their family members and relatives living away from home who are not eligible for postal ballots to come and cast their votes.”

With the highest voter turnout among the dzongkhags in the 2008 elections, he said, the dzongkhag administration expects the same in the upcoming elections as well.

He also cautioned the voters not to accept bribes from the candidates or their representatives. “Let us help to make it a free and fair election in Tsirang.”

A town resident said that the lack of public support is a concern among residents. “This is not the first time. There are some residents who never show up in any meetings.”

Another resident said that the thromde has the most educated people but they lack civic duty. “These people usually do not take part in such important forums, but they are the ones who complain the most.”

An NC candidate said that the low turnout at the thromde could be due to less number of registered voters in the thromde. “It could be also because of another event on the same day.”

Tsirang dzongkhag election office recorded poor turnout in the common forums with only 1,689 voters out of the 26,083 eligible voters registered in the dzongkhag attending. The dhamngoi zomdu also had only 3,261 voter turnout.