With just 24 hours to poll day, national council candidates in Trashigang are contemplating if they had covered all the potential voters. 

“Meeting every voter within the given time is not possible,” a candidate said. “Given the large number of population, there wasn’t enough time to reach them all.”

Trashigang has 15 gewogs including the two highland communities of Merak and Sakteng. 

Another candidate said most villages are scattered and gathering all the people during common forum is difficult.

Candidates say that during the common forum in Sakteng, only the residents of Sakteng chiwog attended. People from the rest of the four chiwogs could not attend given the long time it takes to reach the gewog where the common forum was held. 

For people of Jongkhar, one of the chiwogs in Sakteng, it takes around seven hours to reach the gewog. It is about four hours uphill walk from Thrakthi chiwog to the gewog.     

“Common forums are conducted once in one gewog. Sometimes we had to cover two gewogs in a day,” a candidate said. “Considering the size of the gewog and the nature of the settlements, Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) should have provided us more than just a day to conduct common forums.”

All seven candidates shared that they couldn’t meet people during door-to-door campaigning. “Most of the time the houses were locked and we had to return after meeting people of only about six households,” a candidate said. “If only we could follow them into the farms and forest.”

One of the candidates said they would have forgone door-to-door campaign if the duration of the common forum were extended. “The turnover at common forums was comparatively higher than those we could meet during door-to-door campaigning in all the gewogs.”    

Another candidate said door-to-door campaigning opened room for corruption. “Making wrong allegations against fellow contestants and creating misunderstandings could also have occurred during the door-to-door campaigning,” he said. “It would be better if the door-to-door campaigning is done away with and time extended for common forum.”

The candidates also suggested that the use of language during the common forum be made flexible so that voters understand the candidates better. 

“Most village elders do not understand Dzongkha. If the ECB can allow the use of local dialect, it would be really helpful,” a candidate said. “We can begin with the national language but as we start explaining our pledges, local dialects would be more convenient.”

Some also suggested that besides the 10 minutes time provided to each candidate to present their pledges to the people, a provision for question and answer would also prove helpful. “I’m sure people would have a lot of queries on how we deliver our pledges. They should be given an opportunity to clear those doubts in front of all.”

Meanwhile, a resident of Radhi gewog said that he was not able to attend the common forum. “I was out for personal work and when I returned towards the afternoon, the programme was over,” he said. “I was expecting the candidates to visit my place but only three of them turned up. I couldn’t meet the other four candidates.”

Another resident in Merak said that he was out with his cattle and couldn’t make it to the common forum. “One day is not enough for the common forum. Even if we are informed in advance of such a programme, we never know what would happen at the last minute,” he said. “Now I’m not sure who I should vote for.” 

With 46,986, Trashigang has the highest number of registered voters in the country.  

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang