May 12, 2010
The process of setting up a democratically elected government at local level in Bhutan could be delayed due to incomplete delimitation work, a prerequisite to prepare voter’s list. According to the Election Commissioner extra time is also required for voter’s education, training and to overcome logistical problems.
Bhutan’s first local government elections in a democratic set up could be hit by further delays.
The election commission of Bhutan (ECB) in a press release this week said that ECB cannot proceed further with its work on the local government elections without a formal declaration of thromdes and revised boundaries of gewogs for delimitation, a pre-requisite to prepare voters’ list.
Although the cabinet approved the thromdes’ list last week and His Majesty granted assent to the Local Government Act in April, a clearer picture on the local elections is unlikely to emerge until the delimitation exercise begins, according to election officials.
The chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, said in his press release, that the commission has also reviewed the possibility of conducting elections earlier in some dzongkhags or gewogs. It was based on an assumption that the thromde proposal would be approved without changes, and that the boundaries and voters’ list of 177 gewogs would remain unaffected by the declaration of thromdes.
He said that partial elections for unaffected gewogs and then for affected gewogs and thromdes, however, were not feasible, mainly because of logistical problems. “The possibility of partial elections was reviewed, in keeping with the expectations of the speaker of the national assembly,” he said.
Since every dzongkhag will have gewogs affected and not affected by the thromdes, voter education and training would need to be conducted in the same dzongkhag more than once, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi stated.
Election officials, including returning officers and observers, would also have to be appointed and fielded at least twice to the same dzongkhag. He said that public hearings on the draft delimitation plan would also have to be held at different times for different gewogs in the same dzongkhag, which may not only be demanding on the administration but could create confusion among voters.
ECB officials also said that the partial elections being held earlier for some gewogs might not serve the purpose, because the dzongkha tshogdu would still not be able to convene. This is because the tshogdu’s necessary quorum to convene would only be met after representatives from all thromdes and gewogs are in place as well.
“Besides, if there are any changes to the present thromde list, any early elections in those gewogs affected would have to be reversed,” the chief election commissioner said in the press release.
ECB, to begin other preparatory works for the elections, has urged all Bhutanese, including those interested in contesting the local government elections, to check their voter status online or at the nearest election offices.
Meanwhile, ECB officials would also be preparing the conduct of functional literacy test for potential candidates to enable them to mentally prepare or drop their candidature, depending on whether they receive the certificate to contest.