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Campaign materials confusion delays common forums

A week after the start of the campaign period, aspiring National Council (NC) candidates have raised concerns about the delay in the delivery of the campaign materials.

Officials from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) said that they dispatched complete set of campaign materials to all the dzongkhags yesterday.

More than 200,000 copies of banners, placards, posters and other materials were dispatched to the dzongkhags across the country.

Meanwhile, the candidates say the delay in distribution of campaign materials is affecting the level playing field among them.

“There is no advantage on campaigning door-to-door because we don’t have anything to give,” an aspiring candidate said.

Another candidate said that because of the delay in publication, he is afraid that he might not be able to distribute the materials in the gewogs.

The candidates asked for anonymity.

Candidates have to issue the campaign materials during the common forum, which is a facility created by election authorities to provide equal and cost-effective opportunity to the candidates to address the electorate for the purpose of electioneering, reducing the need for separate meetings or door-to-door campaigns.

ECB spokesperson and head of the election department, Sonam Tobgyal, said that dzongkhags were asked to defer the common forum by a few days so that the meetings could be conducted with the campaign materials.

He said that a small pool of employees have been multitasking to deliver the materials before the scheduled meetings.

For instance, of the 10 candidates, nine were ready but had to wait for the last one, who could not submit his corrected version of the poster, which in turn affected delivery of the whole campaign materials.

Election officials said that each candidate gets a banner, poster and a placard. While the minimum ceiling is 150 placards a candidate per gewog, a candidate can publish more.

Returning officers said that the candidates were also partly responsible for the delay.

“They did not adhere to the standard specifications and we had to ask them to redo the content,” a returning officer from a southern dzongkhag said. “We asked them to submit the manifesto and the designs on time.”

Some had used dzongs and other monuments in their banners; others pledged beyond their mandate.

Sonam Tobgyal said ECB is mindful of the rules and the delay in the publication does not violate any rules. “Where the common forum was held, the returning officers sought the consensus of the candidates whether it was alright to conduct the meeting without the campaign materials.”

While most dzongkhags deferred the common forums because of the delay, Paro held the common forum in Tsindugang without the campaign materials and will hold another one in Bitekha today.

Mongar began common forum two days ago as the dzongkhag has a large area to cover.

Haa began the common forum with only banners in Samar gewog, which the returning officer collected from Thimphu.

Most returning officers Kuensel talked to said the candidates were distributing their visiting cards.

Tshering Palden

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