Voters have until November 1 to register for postal ballots
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has notified all eligible voters to register with the commission to be able to cast postal ballots in the upcoming local government (LG) elections.
This is the first nationwide election in which the ECB will extend postal ballot services to voters from the private sector.
“In light of the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the country, the ECB is extending postal ballot services to all the interested registered voters residing outside their demkhongs (constituencies), in addition to those included under Section 331 of the Election Act,” the ECB has notified.
According to election officials, the move will help minimise crowding at polling centres and reduce the risks of transmitting Covid-19. The officials say the ECB has already developed its strategy to conduct the elections, which will be held towards the end of the year.
Voters have about 17 days to register online at https://berms.ecb.bt/postal/registration, which will close at 5pm on November 1.
The voter turnout has been low, unlike in parliamentary elections.
In the second local government (LG) election of 2016, held in June of that year, 224,460 out of a total 402,149 registered voters cast their votes, which meant that the voter turnout was only 55.8 percent.
Bartsham Gup Kelzang Dawa said that the voter turnout records in the past two LG elections were not satisfactory, and opined that it was because postal ballot services were not extended to the private sector.
“Some of the eligible voters from the private sector could not cast their votes due to distance and expenditure involved in travelling to their dzongkhags,” he said.
Welcoming the ECB’s decision, Serzhong Gup Tshering said that private sector employees would get the opportunity to cast their votes this time without having to travel to their villages.
“The postal ballot services will save time, as travelling to vote from high-risk to low-risk dzongkhags requires staying in quarantine,” he said.
The postal ballot option will also be provided to overseas workers and students.
An observer said that travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 is also expected to increase voter turnout, as people would be staying in the country during the election.
Local government leaders will complete their terms in the last week of this month. The election will be conducted within 90 days after that.
The third election of Samdrupjongkhar Thromde representatives, whose term also ends this month, will also be held along with the gewog elections, according to ECB officials. The first election for the thromde was delayed due to the lack of candidates.
Elections of dzongkhag thromde thuemi will also be held along with the gewog elections.
There are 205 gewogs and 1,044 chiwogs in the country.
Edited by Jigme Wangchuk