With the nomination of candidates for the third thromde elections underway, some candidates and observers have expressed concerns about the lack of a provision for aspiring candidates to produce documents at the dhamngoi zomdu.
A registered voter of a constituency within a thromde who fulfils the criteria as prescribed in Section 178 of the Election Act is eligible to be nominated as a candidate.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), accordingly, does not ask aspiring candidates to produce all the required documents at the zomdu. Although this provision gives more time for candidates to process their documents, it has a demerit.
For instance, if a dhamngoi zomdu rejects a person, who has got his documents ready and nominates another person, who has not got his documents ready, the constituency could go without a candidate in the election despite having nominated one.
Aspiring candidates have about a week to get their documents ready for the upcoming election. ECB has prescribed March 29 and 30 as the last dates for filing the nomination and scrutiny of documents respectively.
The nominations of candidates that do not fulfil the required documents will be rejected.
One of the candidates for Thimphu thrompon, who graduated from the Royal University of Bhutan, said that it took about two weeks for him to get his university documents attested by the department of adult and higher education.
“I heard that it takes longer for those, who’ve graduated from abroad. It’s a critical issue because there are chances that a person may not get the required documents on time after being nominated,” he said.
However, he added that processing other documents, including tax and audit clearance certificates, did not take time.
One of the aspiring candidates in Phuentsholing also expressed his concern about the issue. “If there are two candidates at a zomdu, there are chances that the one who doesn’t have the documents may get nominated,” he said, adding that it would be a loss for both the constituency and the other aspiring candidate who lost to the nominee.
An aspiring candidate said that his documents were being processed and that they would be ready on time.
Officials said that there was no legal requirement for aspiring candidates to produce all the documents at the dhamngoi zomdu.
ECB’s head of the civic and electoral department, Phub Dorji, said that the documents were scrutinised by the Returning Officer (RO). “By law, there’s no need to produce documents at the zomdu.”
However, Phub Dorji added that election officials would brief voters and aspiring candidates about all the requirements. He said that the voters should think about whether a candidate would be able to produce his documents within the prescribed time and cast their votes accordingly.
The dzongkhag election office will hold a dhamngoi zomdu in every thromde tshogpa demkhong to select a candidate wishing to contest election to the post of thrompon.
As per the Election Act, a person is qualified to be elected as a local government member if he or she is a citizen of Bhutan and a registered voter of that constituency and fulfils other criteria prescribed by the law.
Such issues are not new as they emerged in the second local government elections held in 2016.
In one of the incidents, a person was selected as the nominee for the post of gup of Damji chiwog in Khamaed gewog of Gasa by defeating another aspiring candidate at the zomdu. But four days after the zomdu, he received a call from ECB, saying that he was a registered member of a political party.
Similar other cases were also reported in local government elections in Tsirang. Four candidates, who had completed filing their nomination papers in 2016 with the RO, were disqualified on similar grounds.