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Bringing voters up to speed, gewog-wise

Raising awareness on the electoral process through a representative from each household 

Voter Education Conference: Election days might be here, but there are still people least aware of developments taking place, like the new political parties and confusion over council elections.

Perhaps to address that, a voter education conference was held in Ura, Bumthang, on March 8, where it was made mandatory for a representative from each household to attend.

The idea was for them to go back home and educate the other members in the family about the election processes.

A 37-year-old farmer, Sonam, said being illiterate, it was hard for them to comprehend the election related activities.

“We don’t know the difference between the political parties and council elections,” she said. “We thought council candidates were from the parties.”

She had made it to the polls during the first elections, but said she voted “just like that”.

There were also villagers, who were waiting for the campaign process to begin.

“We’ve heard new parties have come in, but are yet to see the faces,” Nado, 67, said.

However, there were others, like villager Yeshi Wangchuk, in his late 50s, who were staying abreast of developments taking place.

On hearing about the common forum that will be arranged during election campaign for candidates to meet the voters at a go, he said he felt that one meeting might not be able to determine who to vote for.  He said candidates should go for door-to-door campaign to convince voters of their support.

“I’m also quite concerned if the young candidates will be worth voting for,” he said. “For us, experience counts a lot.”

During the conference, the dzongda, dzongkhag electoral officer and the gup took turns to explain to people the process of election, and importance of their votes and voting rights.

People were also informed of the new political parties, importance of attending each and every party’s campaigns or meetings, and the difference between National Council and National Assembly.

The electoral officer Mani Ghalay said voters should study the candidates and vote for his or her capabilities.

“Don’t just vote for someone under peer pressure, or because the candidate is a relative,” he said. “Voting right isn’t just for one person or a family. It’s for everyone who is eligible to vote.”

The team also reminded them about errors voters made in the previous elections.

A similar conference was also held in Choekhor gewog on March 9, where more than 400 villagers turned up, and it will also be conducted in the other two gewogs later this month.

Election officials said it was organised to make people understand the importance of voting, to maximise voter turnout, and to try and reduce disputes during elections, among others.

Ura’s 10 villages have about 255 households, and Chhoekhor’s 35 villages have 615 households.

By Sonam Choden, Bumthang

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