Registered eligible voters increases by 53,780

Dechen Dolkar 

Despite apprehensions that voter turnout would drop this election year, the turnout yesterday was the highest so far in the National Council elections.

Around 30,000 more voters cast their votes in the fourth National Council elections yesterday compared with the third council elections. As per the Election Commission of Bhutan’s record, 265,465 voters cast their vote out of the 485,811 registered voters in the country.

168,652 cast their votes through EVM and 96, 813 through postal ballots.

For the fourth NC elections, more than 100,000 eligible postal voters registered for postal ballot out of which 676 were from overseas. However, it was learnt that less than 100 have sent their postal ballots from overseas.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Dasho Sonam Topgay said that the council election was a success compared with the local government elections.

The CEC said that the provisional results were declared in a short period of time, even if the NC election were not as complex as the  LG elections.

“During the LG elections, election officials had to stay for 48 hours in the office counting the results,”  the CEC said.

The voter turnout yesterday was 54.64 percent, a slight increase from 54.29 percent in the third NC elections in 2018. In the 2013 NC elections, voter turnout was 45.16 percent. The first council election saw a voter turnout of about 53 percent.

Gasa had the highest voter turnout with 77.75 percent.  The remote dzongkhag had 2,279 registered voters. With 43.5 percent,  Thimphu saw the lowest voter turnout. Thimphu had16,428 registered voters.

Trashigang saw the highest number of registered voters with 52,177 eligible voters. About 50 percent participated in the elections.

However, the detail of voter registration indicates that the increase in turnout was because of the increase in eligible registered voters. The total number of registered voters increased by 53,780 for the fourth NC election since the NC election in 2018.

Of the 10 incumbent members who re-contested, only two, Paro’s Ugyen Tshering and Chukha’s  Sangay Dorji got re-elected.

Voters, it seems, were not keen on electing women candidates as of the five women who contested, only one, Zhemgang’s Tshering Tshomo was elected.


Second chance?

A trend in the NC election this year was candidates who contested in past NC elections and lost getting elected.

Candidates who won yesterday from Mongar, Punakha, Thimphu and Sarpang have contested in past NC elections. Observers said that this was due to “sympathy votes”, meaning that voters gave them a chance after seeing them lose in past elections.

Punakha’s NC elect Namgay Dorji, for instance, contested in the last two NC elections. “We didn’t have a favourite. We decided to vote for Namgay Dorji as he had lost in the past two elections,” said a voter who claims to have voted for the winning candidate.

In Thimphu, some voters said that Leki Tshering had contested once in the past and had lost. The other candidate had already served as the Councillor once,” said a voter from Semtokha. “We thought we would give an opportunity to the new face (candidate),” he said. Asked what made him vote for the winning candidate, he said, there was no other reason. “I thought a change would be good.”


Turning back voters

An issue, even if not serious, was sending back voters for not having an original copy of their citizenship identity card or voter card and some carrying expired citizen identity cards (CID). A student being sent back after providing the soft copy of his CID on his mobile phone made many ask questions if the need to carry CID was logical. “As long as a copy of the CID is produced, officials should let them vote,” said a voter. “We are talking about digitalization and an -copy of CID is not expected.” Three voters were sent home to get their CID at the Radhi polling station in Trashigang.

Although numbers are being worked on, election officials also rejected several postal ballots for not fulfilling the requirements.

ECB Spokesperson, Phub Dorji, said that despite the commission creating awareness of carrying original voter cards and CID cards, people are still careless.

The election petition period starts today and ends on May 5.