Bhutan will witness its third Thromde elections on April 28th
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is all geared up to conduct the third Thromde elections in Thimphu, Gelephu and Phuentsholing on April 28 amid strict lockdown and surging COVID-19 positive cases in the border town, which went on high alert after the detection of community transmissions last week.
With record breaking positive cases detected daily in India, which has brought the Indian healthcare system to its knees, Bhutan suspended the import of Indian expatriates indefinitely, followed by the lockdown in the border towns after the frontline workers and service providers in a quarantine center tested positive for the virus.
The spokesperson from ECB, Phub Dorji, while acknowledging the constraints of the lockdown, explained how they have strategized two distinct plans to enable the electoral process in the three Thromdes.
“Plan A will be for conducting elections during pandemic situation like in Thimphu and Gelephu and plan B is for Phuentsholing, which is still under lockdown,” he said.
Further, to facilitate voting for the elderly (65 years and above) and the disabled in Thimphu and Gelephu, the ECB will be operating the mobile postal ballot facilitation booth (PBFB) from April 23 to 24, which would enable them to vote from their door steps.
Meanwhile, in Phuentsholing Thromde, the ECB will be distributing postal ballots to all the registered voters at their doorstep on April 24.
“We have already contacted the registered voters and for two days our officials will be distributing the postal ballots,” he said, adding that those registered voters who did not register for postal ballots will also be issued the same.
The sealed postal ballot will be picked up by the election officers, who would then sent it to the Phuentsholing Thromde office.
“For this arrangement we have also requested the support of the COVID-19 task force team, he said, “Candidates will be brought to the counting center on the poll day after the COVID-19 test.”
Meanwhile, in order to avoid overcrowding at the polling stations in Thimphu and Gelephu, the ECB has extended the voting hours, which will now commence at 8am and run till 6pm in the evening, with one polling station created in every constituency.
The whole election, according to Phub Dorji, will be conducted in consonance with the COVID-19 health protocols. For instance, when candidates go for door to door campaign, one DeSuup would be deployed with each one of them to observe the safety protocol strictly.
“Even on the polling day, besides the security personnel, DeSuups will be monitoring the crowd,” he said.
Of the three Thromdes, Thimphu has the highest registered voters at 8,007, followed by Gelephu (1,540) and Phuentsholing (932). A total of 1,542 have registered for postal ballots. The postal ballots have been availed by senior citizens, people with disabilities, students studying overseas and also prisoners. Thimphu has eight polling stations while Gelephu has six, and each polling station will have five election officials on duty, excluding a national observer.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu