With about a week left for the primary election, people in Panbang not only know who their candidates are but also know who is voting for whom.

In Panbang town, which has about 2,000 residents, people say they are confused about who to choose between the three candidates of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

A resident, Sangay, said while she is related to DPT candidate, Dorji Wangdi, her husband is related to DNT candidate Tshering and PDP candidate, Lungten Dorji.

She and a group of women, who were outside their shops chatting in the evening, said they have attended the common forums and also meeting of all the political parties.

They discuss on what the candidates pledged.

As dusk falls and the women enter their homes, a restaurant owner nearby shares who is supporting who.

“Panbang is a small place and we know who supports whom,” he said.

The restaurant owner also said that DPT’s Dorji Wangdi, as the first minister from Zhemgang and the face of the development of lower Kheng, has a strong support base.

He said DNT’s Tshering, who contested the 2013 election as PDP candidate after DNT lost in the primary, has also managed to gain his own support. “DNT is also popular in the locality because of their president.”

But most residents know PDP candidate, who is from the locality and who they say visited all the gewogs in the constituency as the then director for Department of Local Governance.

A businessman, Rinchen, said Panbang is not yet developed and they need a strong candidate, who will raise their issues and resolve it. “There is water problem in the town. There is no proper road to travel from Gelephu. The town development could not progress.”

A former drungkhag health official and his son, who was a teacher and an active community member now, support different parties.

While the father is the PDP party coordinator, the son is DNT’s gewog coordinator.

The father was in Phangkhar gewog with PDP candidate on September 5 and the son went with DNT candidate yesterday.

“I respect and support my father’s decision to support PDP,” the son, Kinley, said. “My father is equally supportive of my decision to support DNT.”

In the villages, people have also decided whom to vote for and why.

Thinley, 55, from Goshing, who could not cultivate his one-acre paddy field this time, said all political parties and candidates pledged to resolve irrigation and drinking water shortage.

“But if there is no water source, how will they provide us water,” the father of eight said.

He said his family and most in the locality support the same party. “Only two or three households support a different party.”

In Pantang, where a group of women were talking among each other, Pem Choki, 43, was alleging how their former representative could not provide road, drinking water and electricity to her far-flung village in Panabi.

She said everyone in her village should now understand that they should support a strong party.

Her neighbour, Tshering, 41, said they know which party she is talking about and that others in the village think otherwise. “Only three households from her village support the party.”

The Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) candidate, Tshering Dendup, who locals say contested for the tshogpa post in the last local government election, is not much talked about.

“People will change their perspective once they watch the debate between the candidates,” a Panbang resident said. “He has done exceptionally well and he is a capable man.”

Meanwhile, with common forums completed, the four candidates are conducting door-to-door campaigning.

Panbang’s returning officer, Tashi Phuntsho, said 10 common forums were conducted for the four gewogs from August 27 to September 4.

The voter turnout, he said, was more than expected in all the four gewogs.

Tashi Dema | Panbang