𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒂𝒇𝒆𝒕𝒚 𝒐𝒇 𝒑𝒆𝒐𝒑𝒍𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒃𝒆 𝒈𝒊𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒂𝒎𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕 𝒊𝒎𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒌𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒐𝒏𝒈𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑪𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅-19 𝒑𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒊𝒄
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) on 16 March issued notification for the third thromde elections in the three municipalities of Thimphu, Phuentsholing, and Gelephu to be held on 28 April.
Going forward and keeping in view the raging Covid-19 situation, it must be noted that all individuals attending common forums should ensure strict adherence to all the necessary precautions of coronavirus disease outlined in the ‘Strategy for the conduct of the thromde elections 2021 amid Covid-19 pandemic.’
The strategy requires aspiring thromde tshogpa candidates to wear a facemask, use hand gloves and maintain physical distancing when engaging with the voters while seeking signatures.
The contestant should produce signatures of at least five percent of the registered voters from the ‘thromde tshogpa demkhong’ supporting his or her nomination to the post of ‘thromde tshogpa’, provided no voter has supported more than one nominee.
Every ‘thromde tshogpa demkhong’ is entitled to nominate one candidate – a registered voter fulfilling the criteria laid down in section 178 of the Election Act – each to contest for the election to the post of thrompon.
The dzongkhag election authority should conduct a ‘dhamngoi zomdu’ in every ‘thromde tshogpa demkhong’ to select one candidate wishing to contest election to the post of ‘thrompon’.
The gathering of the electorate for the common forum will be facilitated at an appropriate venue – open air such as football ground, futsal ground, stadium, assembly ground or spacious hall such as the auditorium, multipurpose hall of schools – and time in the ‘Demkhong’ to hear the candidates.
Managing a polling station would be simple and also convenient for voters where there will be at least one polling station in every ‘thromde tshogpa demkhong’ as designed in the strategy in the messy muddles of the pandemic.
Besides, the ECB will also accept either the Citizenship Identity Card (CID) or Voter Photo Identity Card (VPIC) for identification of the voter on the poll day to mitigate the risk of transmission and spread of Covid-19 at the VPIC issuance centers.
De-Suups will be mobilized as per requirements to supplement and complement the efforts of the police’s security personnel and to enforce the Covid-19 health safety protocols.
With the issue of notification, the election process has begun on 20 March from the selection – dhamngoi zomdu – for thrompon and signature process by aspiring candidates for the post of thromde tshogpa, and the withdrawal of candidature will end on 1 April.
The declaration of results after counting will take place on 29 April.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐜𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐢𝐠𝐧
With the moral code of conduct, the poll campaigning will run for 24 days from 2 April until 8-am of 26 April. For instance, all banks or financial institutions shall report to the ECB any abnormal transaction of money, including in the account of a candidate contesting the thromde elections in the three dzongkhags.
Also, ministers, members of parliament, officials, or members of a political party and local government post holders will be prohibited from campaigning directly or indirectly for any candidate.
The commission notified that no travels or official tours shall be undertaken by a minister or Member of Parliament, particularly to his or her ‘demkhong’ during the election period, except to cast their votes on the poll day if they wish not to avail of the postal ballot facility extended to them.
If such travel to a ‘demkhong’ becomes unavoidable, he or she should first report to the ECB or concerned returning officer.
Public debates will be conducted on 12, 13, and 14 April for Thimphu, Gelephu, and Phuentsholing, respectively.
Nearly 10,000 voters will be eligible to vote in the three thromdes. A person who applied for a postal ballot will not be allowed to vote in person. And the registration for postal ballots, which started on 1 March, will close on 23 March.
The tenure of the three thromde tshogdes completed on 26 February. And the election for the Samdrup Jongkhar thromde is also due in September this year.