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Excitement mounts as bye-elections draws close

By Sonam Choki

As the bye-elections in Mongar and Nganglam constituenciesโ€™ edge closer, parties and their candidate hopefuls are making the final dash to rule on the penultimate day which is scheduled on Tuesday June 29.

Most candidates say the campaign period was a success and that they are ready to face the polls on June 29 which would decide the fate of the four candidates who are all vying for a seat in the National Assembly.

However, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has facilitated mobile Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) facilitation booths for the upcoming bye-election in both the constituencies for the first time.

ECB said the facility will take the voting procedures to the votersโ€™ doorsteps and that such a move will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the community by avoiding gatherings during the poll day.

They said the initiative will also help senior citizens and persons with disabilities to cast vote at their doorsteps.

The two-day voting through the mobile booth facilities was started in all the five gewogs this week and all 230 registered voters for the mobile booth facility in Mongar dzongkhag cast their votes. 

According to the ECB officials there are so many issues especially with the surge in the COVID-19 cases in the country, therefore, the need to set up these facilities was paramount as it would play a very vital role in help preventing unwarranted problems and disasters.

Many farmers, especially the old and the weak, said they are very much thankful to ECB for having taken the initiative so that people could exercise their franchise at their own doorsteps, and also prevented them for unnecessary exposure at these crucial pandemic times.

Voters and candidates alike said they are expected a better voter turnout this time because of ECBโ€™s initiative and such facilities should be made available across other Dzongkhags and in other elections.

A farmer, Kencho Wangdi from Konbar, said they are thankful to the ECB for providing electoral services at their doorsteps. He said most of the farmers wouldnโ€™t have been able to vote nor would have taken the initiative to travel far just to vote.

โ€œThis was a very welcome move by the ECB. We hope that similar initiatives will be rolled out in future so that more people partake in these kinds of elections,โ€ the father of three said.

Meanwhile, with Nganglam drungkhag in Pema Gatshel under lockdown until further notice, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) had started facilitating the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) mobile voting booths.

ECB officials said the facilitation is for those who are above 65 years and persons with disabilities.

However, other eligible voters are given the opportunity to vote through mobile postal ballot facilitation and election officials said more than 500 registered for both mobile and postal ballot voting facilities.

Seven teams were deployed in Nganglam Throm and three other gewogs in Nganglam Constituency for the mobile votings.

ECB officials said it was done in keeping with the risks of transmitting COVID-19 and to facilitate voting even during the lockdown.They added the extension of lockdown will not affect mobile voting.

ECB said the main polls on Tuesday will be ensured that it runs smoothly even in case the lockdown in the drungkhag gets extended. The Returning Offiver said they are providing the opportunity to vote through this facility to almost all the eligible voters in Nganglam Throm.

Data from ECB show that there are approximately 7, 400 registered voters in Nganglam Constituency for the upcoming bye-election which was called after the untimely demise of the incumbent MP.

The bye-election for both Monggar and Nganglam constituencies will be held on Tuesday from 8 AM till 6 PM.

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