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Gearing up for 2008 elections
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Gearing up for 2008 elections

When Bhutanese above 18 years go to polls in the first general elections in 2008 would they participate in it intelligently and vote for the right candidate?

They could if they know about the elections, its procedures and its significance, say officials of the election commissioner's office which began yesterday in Thimphu a training programme on the election procedures for representatives from 20 dzongkhags.

The three-day training programme will orient the representatives comprising dzongrabs, administration officers, and other bureaucrats from across the country on all aspects of elections like how parties will be formed, how and who could vote and to operate the electronic voting machines.

The programme is the first major step in electoral education from the election commissioner's office in preparing for the 2008 general elections.

Although Bhutanese people were not totally oblivious of the election processes, having elected their own community leaders for past many years, the chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, said they had to presume that the Bhutanese population was unaware of the election process.

The representatives will also learn training methods and be provided with training materials to disseminate the electoral mechanisms to the people of their dzongkhags, villages and communities when they return home.

The commissioner's office also has plans to create awareness through advertisements in mass media, slogans, posters, through direct contact with voters, promoting a feature film demonstrating the entire process of election and conducting mock-sessions in some of the institutions.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that the office would also have to educate the electoral officers, political parties and politicians themselves who would have to be oriented with laws, regulations, principles and norms of the electoral system.

"They have to know the basic organisation," the chief election commissioner said. Having prepared the electoral rolls for every constituency an election drill is to be carried out sometime in April and August 2007 so that people would have a "hands on experience on the elections".

The chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, in his opening address said the process of election was one of the facets of selfless devolution of power by His Majesty the King to enable every Bhutanese to participate in collective decision making, by electing a representative of their choice through a free and fair election.

He said the commission's preparation of the Bhutan electoral education and training strategy would educate the voters, candidates and members of political parties. "It is necessary to educate the voters so as to enable them to participate in elections intelligently and elect the right candidate," said the chief justice.

Contributed by Samten Wangchuk, Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper, August 2006
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