Was it change what Thimphu voters wanted?

Thrompon-elect campaigned on being the agent of change

Chhimi Dema 

When former thrompon Kinlay Dorjee announced his intention to run for a third time as the capital city’s thrompon, many assumed that as an incumbent, he would have the advantage. The advantage doubled when voters in Chang area didn’t approve the second candidate from south Thimphu.

Kinlay Dorjee served for two terms (10 years) as the Thimphu Thrompon. The incumbency factor, many say played a role in people voting for change. The thrompon-elect, Ugyen Dorji played his cards well. His pledge to be the agent of change struck a chord with the majority of voters of Thimphu. He won with 40.2 percent of the 4,410 total votes cast on April 28.

Thimphu thromde is divided into seven constituencies for the election. Since the first election, there were no candidates from most of the constituencies. In the last election, Kinlay Dorjee, without a contestant, was elected on the “yes” and “no” basis.

The third election was different. When Ugyen Dorji, the candidate from the Jungshina-Kawajangsa constituency announced his interest, many thought he would stand a good chance. His experience of working with the thromde as urban planner gave him the edge over the other candidate from north Thimphu.

Not all Thimphu’s 8,007 eligible voters participated in the election, majority of the 54.48 percent voted for change.

A voter from Babesa said that while the former thrompon had a successful 10 years, it was the anti-incumbency factor that decided the fate of the election. “We are a small community, so anti-incumbency could have played a role,” the voter said. “People also talk about giving chances to others. It happened in the National Assembly elections.”

Pema Choden, a voter, said that people voted for Ugyen Dorji hoping that he would bring changes in the city’s development. “Although the former thrompon had not failed, people tend to look for change and new leadership.”

Three demkhongs – Changangkha, Motithang and Norzin had no candidates standing for the election. Ugyen Dorji took advantage of that. He won 603 votes from the three constituencies. That made the difference Kinlay Dorjee secured a total of 381 votes and Sonam Dorji got 206 votes from the three constituencies.   All three candidates won from their own constituencies.

A voter who claims to have voted for Ugyen Dorji said that Ugyen Dorji is well aware of the thromde’s plans. “It would be easy for him to continue what the former thrompon planned and got approved. Besides, his personal contacts with the voters, working as the urban planner could have made a difference.”

Another voter said that Ugyen Dorji had the opportunity to campaign if he wanted while working at the thromde. “His attitude and dealing with the people would have made a difference,” he said adding that he found the thrompon-elect helpful and polite when he had an issue with the thromde over his plot of land.

Another voter analyses that when people were looking for a change, they found a person who had a fair experience in thromde and had the relevant qualification, he said. “It is a mix of wanting to change and finding a person with a good experience in Thromde.”

The thrompon-elect worked with the Thimphu Thromde for 11 years and also served as an assistant lecturer in Jigme Namgyel Engineering College from 2008 to 2010. Ugyen Dorji has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Australia and a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the College of Science and Technology in Phuentsholing.

The public debate, according to some voters also mattered. Deki, a voter from Norzin, said that Ugyen Dorji carried himself well. “He knew his subject well and in the public debate he knew what he was talking about.”

The thrompon-elect said that his academic qualification and work were the factors that helped him win. “Because of that people thought that the moment I join, I would be able to take up the job immediately.”

Ugyen Dorji pledged on improving thromde services such as water supply system, enhance waste management and collection service, work towards financial and human resource autonomy of Thromde, and develop postal or street address within six months.

Some of his commitments to ease traffic congestion include increasing the frequency of bus service, reviewing the plan of the Norzin Lam project, connecting the road from Druk School junction to Debsi as an alternative Babesa Express Highway.

The thrompon candidate from Dechencholing-Taba, Sonam Dorji, said that the result of the thromde elections was fair. “People of Thimphu voted for Ugyen Dorji. Democracy is the rule of the majority. We must respect the people’s choice and mandate.”

Meanwhile, voter turnout in Thimphu increased by 23.47 percent compared to the second thromde elections in 2016. The turnout was  54.48 percent.  Out of a total of 8,007 registered voters, 4,100 voted.

A total of 662 were postal voters from 848 registered postal voters in Thimphu. Five postal ballots were rejected on the grounds of missing markings or double marks on the ballot.

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