… Sarpang has the highest number of NC candidates   

Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu 

Sarpang dzongkhag, which has the highest number of candidates nominated for the National Council 2023 elections, has seen a dismal voter turnout according to locals and election officials.

Of the 33,792 registered voters in the dzongkhag, only 5,000 voters including 2,375 females, accounting for about 15 percent of eligible voters turned up at the gewog dhamngoi zomdus.

The number of registered voters in Sarpang increased by 4,018 from 29,774 eligible voters registered ahead of the 2018 elections.

However, the voter turnout this year at zomdus in Sarpang are up by 627 compared to the 2018 National Council elections which saw 4,373 voters including five voters living with a disability.

Given the trend of low voter turnout, the dzongkhag election office recommended carrying out a study and some temporary measures in the electoral system to encourage more participation in the zomdu, particularly the voters from 18 to 40 years.

Records with the dzongkhag election office reveal poor turnout among voters between 18 and 24 years with only 338 including 155 female voters.

Election officials said that more voters were coming to participate in the gewogs with a candidate for nomination. “Special arrangements are being made to facilitate senior citizens.”

Among the 12 gewogs and Gelephu thromde, only Gelephu and Serzhong gewogs had voter turnout above 20 percent.

In the three larger gewogs based on voter registration—Dekiling, Jigme Chhoeling, and Chhuzangang—only one in 12 eligible voters voted.

Dekiling gewog saw only 732 voter turnout — 15 percent of its 4,676 eligible voters.

Despite having the second highest number of registered voters with 4,186, Jigme Chhoeling gewog recorded four percent, the lowest voter turnout at the zomdus.

Election officials said that gewogs without aspiring candidates also recorded low voter turnout. Jigme Chhoeling is among three gewogs and a thromde that did not nominate any candidate.

While Gelephu gewog has the fourth lowest number of registered voters in the dzongkhag, the gewog zomdu saw the highest voter turnout with 668 (34 percent) of the 1,944 registered voters.

Gelephu thromde had only 98 voters attend the zomdu, which accounts to five percent of the 1,665 registered voters in the thromde.

This, according to election officials, has been an issue across the thromdes. “This is a national issue. Even Thimphu thromde with the largest population sees only countable heads at such important forums.”

Sarpang has nine candidates including a lone female, the highest among the dzongkhags, contesting the NC elections. The dzongkhag has 43 polling stations.