One of the first voters to cast their votes during the dhamngoi zomdu at Serzhong gewog, Sarpang yesterday was 108-year-old Pem Chozom.

A relative helped her to the polling station. She cannot see properly.

“I hope I pressed the right button,” she said, walking out the polling station.

About a dozen elderly residents came to vote and a few left agitated with their aides not telling them where to press.

Of the 630 votes cast, 390 were in favour of Pema Tashi, a lawyer from Serzhong.

There were 365 female voters and 265 were male. A former teacher, Kunzang Dorji, from Pemaling got 240 votes.

After a lukewarm response at the dhamngoi zomdu in Tareythang (70), Umling (180), and Chuzangang (295), Serzhong gewog residents poured out in droves in dozens of cars, and even in a bus, some travelling as far as Thimphu and Mongar, mostly relatives of the two aspirants.

“It’s important for him to get through this round,” a relative of one of the candidates who came from Thimphu, Dorji, said.

The meeting hall filled within minutes after the presiding officer Cheku Wangchuk began his briefing to the gathering and demonstration of the electronic voting machines.

The queue stretched to the gewog office gate and many had to seek shelter from the scorching sun. Families ate their packed lunches, some clipped their nails, and others lied down in the shade and slept, while the line did not show any sign of shortening.

The nearby canteen was packed with those who had not brought food. Some returned upset after the owner refused to serve alcohol despite their repeated requests.

Villagers said it was important for the representatives from their village to qualify to contest the elections.

“We have to make sure that at least he gets through to get a chance in the final round, so that our community has a chance,” another villager from Serzhong said.

About 50 voters, mostly from Serzhong waited for the results at the polling station after the polling closed. When the nominee from their chiwog won, they went away cheering, some on the back of bolero pickup trucks.

After dhamngoi zomdu in six of the 12 gewogs in Sarpang, two of which were held yesterday, the dzongkhag has two nominees today.

Chuzangang gewog on March 6, nominated Khari Lal Gurung, a tour guide, with 177 yes votes. Of the 295 votes cast, 118 voters voted against his nomination.

After Tareythang, Chudzom, and Umling gewogs, Chuzangang was the first gewog to go to polls to nominate a candidate for the National Council elections.

At 9am, the presiding officer, Cheku Wangchuk, began his speech on the requirements in a candidate. The officer tried to be loud enough saying, “No weapons, drinks, but carry voter photo identity cards.”

He tried to be audible over the din in the room as those pouring in shifted their chairs and greeted each other.

Some updated those sitting close to them about their status with farm work or house construction. Others continued their exchanges way beyond the initial greetings. More voters came and the hall gradually filled.

One elderly man had come with a dagger while many tried to press on other buttons, as they became tainted with the ink of their thumbs.

Tareythang, Umling, Chudzom, and Sengye gewogs declared that they do not have nominees for the upcoming elections.

The next gewog zomdu is in Gakidling gewog today.

Tshering Palden | Sarpang