The remote district presents a challenge with its shallow gene pool of eligible candidates
Election 2013: Gasa, the country’s northern most and largest district, where yaks far outnumber inhabitants, could prove a major testing ground for the political parties.
That is because the dzongkhag has only 33 people, from a population of a little more than 3,000, with a bachelor’s degree qualification, the minimum academic requirement to stand for elections to the National Assembly and National Council.
This pool of elites, who qualify to stand in the elections, includes opposition party member Damcho Dorji, Dorji Khandu of DPT and councillor Sangay Khandu
With Gasa having two seats in the National Assembly, and five political parties in the fray, at least 10 Gasa graduates need to join politics for all the parties to contest the 2013 election. This means one of every three graduates in this district should be with a political party.
Of the 33 graduates, Khamey gewog has 18, of which seven are women, Goenkhatoe has 11, including three women, Laya gewog has three, and Lunana’s lone female is a doctor by profession. Most of them are in civil service.
“All of them may not join politics, given the risk involved,” said Khamey gup Karma Tshering. “But if people don’t come forward, our chance of choosing the right candidate gets even more slimmer.”
Laya gup Kinley Dorji said, as official of an apolitical body, he was not aware who all had shown interest in joining politics.
As of now, only one person from Goenkhatoe-Laya constituency has declared his intention to stand as a candidate for the Druk Phuensum tshogpa, the ruling party. He will be up against opposition member Damcho Dorji. The constituency has 14 people with a minimum graduate qualification.
With only one person (a medical doctor) qualifying to join politics from Lunana gewog, its 438 eligible voters may have to resort to voting for a candidate from Khamey gewog of the same constituency, which has 18 people with a minimum bachelors’ degree.
Villager Tshewang said the education criteria could undermine exercising the voting rights in choosing right candidates from a place like Lunana, which will struggle to produce college graduates even in the next couple of years. “We have only a few studying from the village,” Tshewang said.
Dzongkhag officials are of the view that having a fewer graduates from the dzongkhag may be mainly because of the old belief of losing people from the village if children are sent to schools.
Of more than 1,800 eligible voters in the dzongkhag, Khatoe gewog has 273, Khamey has 444 and Laya gewog has 569 voters.
By Tenzin Namgyel, Gasa