2 April, 2009 - The election commission of Bhutan (ECB) expects to start the formal process for conducting local government elections by August 2009.
The ECB, during its first annual conference, reviewed work on delimitation of local government demkhongs (constituencies) and proposed a strategy to conduct local government elections.
“If the law (Local Government Act 2007) is in place by July or earlier, the process could begin by August,” said election official.
The LG Act will be discussed in the coming summer session of parliament.
It would start with the public hearings of the draft delimitation plan for local government demkhongs.
The nomination procedure of the LG election process will start with the test of functional literacy, followed by the process of calling zomdues in the demkhongs to the offices of gups, mangmis and tshogpas, and thrompons, dzongkhag thromde tshogpas, dzongkhag thromde thuemis and yenlag thromde thuemis to dzongkhag tshogdus.
Meanwhile, the chief election commissioner (CEC), Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that national council candidates, who were not elected, would be allowed to seek nominations to contest in the LG election.
The same rule would apply to unsuccessful national assembly election candidates and other members of political parties, so long as they meet the requirement of having resigned one year prior to the filing of nominations to contest LG elections.
Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that the zomdues would be held after conducting the test of functional literacy, so that eligible persons, including those issued with the certificate of functional literacy, could file nominations to contest the elections.
Meanwhile, Bhutanese journalists will find more restrictions covering elections in the future with ECB drafting new rules.
Election officials said they would regulate the time limit for media visiting polling stations. “We may allow them to be in the polling station for around five minutes,” said CEC Dasho Kunzang Wangdi.
Reporters, wanting to interview voters, will do so from a distance of at least 100 m from the polling station.
Dasho Kunzang Wangdi told Kuensel that, unlike in the past parliamentary election, all media would be treated equally. He said that, in the past, some media were given access while others were deprived.
“As we wanted to share all footage, Bhutan broadcasting service was given privileged access during the counting of votes. On the other hand, other reporters filed online stories and it was alleged that other media agencies covered the results while BBS could not do so even with access to counting centres,” he said.
“This will not happen in the future,” said the CEC.
Media agencies will also not conduct opinion or exit polls before the election results are declared.
By Nima Wangdi