One constituency saw only three voters come for the zomdu
Thromde: A lone woman waited for two hours at the Jigme Losel school yesterday. Near her, three polling officials were munching on tapioca. A policeman stood guarding the voting equipment.
It was the zomdu (meeting) to nominate a thrompon, tshogpa and a thuemi candidate for the thromde elections on January 25. Another woman had come, registered and left. There was no zomdu.
The scene was better at Motithang. Eight voters turned up for the zomdu. In Dechencholing, 21 came and voted in a thromde thuemi. Six of the constituencies did not have a candidate to contest for the thrompon’s post.
This news was welcomed by the crowd, largely made of relatives, neighbours and friends, who had gathered at the Babesa school to vote in their candidate, former thrompon Kinlay Dorjee who resigned on Monday to re-contest.
The turn out was not good. Only 137 out of the 864 turned up. 133 voted “yes” and four voted “no”. When the returning officer announced the results, the crowd unanimously said the four “no” could have been a mistake. They started joking of not bringing elderly voters on January 25 as they cannot differentiate the “yes” and “no” button.
The result could mean that Kinlay Dorjee is one step away from returning as the capital’s thrompon. On January 25, the 7,275 eligible voters in the thromde, if they turn up, will vote “yes” or “no” to elect the lone thrompon candidate.
But Kinlay Dorjee is cautious. “In an election, one cannot be sure until the day when the polling results are being declared. Similarly, I would respect the voters’ decision to either vote for me or not,” he said. “If I get re-elected, there are definitely many great plans to transform the city to a better place.”
The lone thromde thuemi candidate Kinley, 50, secured 19 votes out 21 to be nominated as the thromde thuemi candidate. He said despite his lack of experience in the civil service, he was confident to serve the people. A thromde thuemi is representative of the Dzongkhag Thromde to the Dzongkhag Tshogdu.
From the same constituency, former tshogpa Ugyen, 51, would continue as the tshogpa.
The six voters who came to Motithang nominated their former tshogpa, Dorji Dema to continue. The tshogpas will have to produce signatures of 5 percent of the eligible voters from different households to be elected.
Meanwhile, the few who came to the polling stations accused the Election Commission of Bhutan for not giving enough time and announcing the voters about the zomdu dates in advance. Voters from Decehncholing to Babesa shared this.
“We didn’t know there was a zomdu until our sister informed us,” said a voter, Yeshey who left office to come to vote. At Babesa, where the maximum voters turned up, voters said they came to know about the zomdu through the word of mouth.
One of the six voters in Motithang accused the rich and the educated for not taking local government elections seriously. “I have informed the voters through phone, SMS and word of mouth,” said the former tshogpa, Dorji Dema. “Rich people don’t come for small zomdus,” said a voter.
There are 7,275 eligible voters in the thromde. Changbandu-Olakha has the highest registered voter, 1,868. But only 63 people turned up at the zomdu. Motithang has 406, but only six came for the zomdu. Two joined later.
Election officials refuted the accusation. They said announcements were made through the media and also during the voters’ education that was conducted in three places in the thromde. “There were no voters at the voters’ education and tshogpas are not cooperating,” the Dzongkhag Election Officer, Choni Dorji said. “We have spent a lot of money in notifying the people.”
Nobody knows why the capital city’s registered voters are not interested in the election. Former thrompon Kinlay Dorjee believes the city’s residents to be happy with his contribution.
“Perhaps they are keen to have my tenure extended to make the city more livable in terms of environment, pedestrian friendliness, and socially vibrant,” Kinlay Dorjee said.
Ugyen Penjore and MB Subba
Additional reporting by Tshering Palden