martedì 27 dicembre 2011

Bhutan: Round two marked by poor voter turnout.

Voter fatigue, low tshogpa status or bad timing: any one or all could be why
LG ELECTION It was a slow day for most election officials positioned in the polling stations across the country yesterday; they hardly had their fill in rendering their services to the voters.
The second round of local government elections held in the 316 demkhongs in the country yesterday saw a poor voter turnout.
While the election commission officials were working late last night compiling results, preliminary records indicate a less than 30 percent voter turnout.
There were a total of 96,716 voters listed as eligible for the election.
But the outcome was not surprising, observers following the local government elections closely, pointed out.
With two elections being held within six months, they said it was impossible to expect voters, mostly villagers, to turn up at the polling booth leaving their daily chores behind.
“The villagers, who are expected to appear and sit through countless village zomdus and activities, will naturally have developed fatigue towards this,” one said.
Some said it was a clear indication the tshogpa post, which had the maximum vacancy in the second round, was not being perceived as important as the gup and the mangmi posts, despite a cabinet announcement to increase the salary of the tshogpa from Nu 2,000 to Nu 5,000 a month from January.
Others attributed it to bad timing.
For most farmers, winter months meant engaging in activities outside the villages.  They had pilgrimage to make and relatives to visit, with their farms remaining uncultivated at this time of the year.  For nomads, it was time to move to the warmer valleys with their herds.
Election officials, however, said the percentage did not necessarily indicate low number of voter turnout.
“Although at the surface it portrays so, we shouldn’t forget that the rest, the 70 percent, cast their votes for the gups and mangmis in the earlier round of election,” election commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said.
He said they fell victims to circumstances and could not vote this time but, had there been candidates in the vacant chiwogs then, they would have voted.
The commissioner said the level of participation, despite the delimitations being complete in February this year, functional literacy test conducted right after, and then the elections, was encouraging.
About 1,104 candidates were elected in the first round held in June, which saw a 56 percent voter turnout.
For now, going by the results, it is likely the number of vacant demkhongs, which remained at 55 after the candidature for second round was finalised, will increase.
There are chiwogs in Sarpang, Punakha and Trashiyangtse, among others, that voted “no” to their lone candidates.
There are also results from chiwogs, like the one in Zhemgang, that indicate “equality in votes”. While such chiwogs will remain vacant for now, re-elections will be conducted within a month, as required by law.
In Nanong, Pemagatshel, postal ballots have come to the rescue, saving a candidate, who secured equal number of votes as his opponent, 39 each, on the electronic voting machine.  He had received two postal ballots that made the difference.
Meanwhile, election commission received application for about 144 postal ballots of which 100 ballots were issued.
The two vacant gup posts in Gongdu gewog in Mongar and Bjagchhog gewog in Chukha, and one Mangmi post have also been filled.
The official result of the elections will be declared today.
 By Kesang Dema

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