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Mock elections "What do I do?"
2nd Mock election May 2007
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Mock Elections: "What do I do?"
Attired in their best clothes and carrying lunch, the people of Pugli gewog, Samtse, arrived in droves shortly after 9 am on 21 April 2007. They have walked miles to participate in the national parliamentary Mock election on Saturday.

The mood was celebrative as voters sat comfortably outside the polling booths chatting and catching up with friends from other villages.

Their appearance however changed as they, one by one, entered the polling booth where the voting machine with four bright colours was placed.

"What do I do?" asked a voter as he entered the booth. The polling officer shouts out an explanation.

"But what colour should I press?" asks the voter after the explanation. "Pick the colour you like best," yells the frustrated polling officer. After the beep the voter leaves with a sheepish grin on his face.

Jagat Bahadur Limbu of Thomkay village under Pugli had seen a voting machine before and knew how it worked. "There were two buttons and when I pressed one a light blinked and shortly the machine buzzed," he recalls.

But for the mock election he had not decided whom to vote for and he had no idea about the four colours.

Beating the heat: voters share a jar of wate

A group of students of Gomtu Middle Secondary School were of the impression that they would know which button to press only after they were inside the polling room.

Only a few talked about the political changes which would soon be a reality in Bhutan. Voters, however, asked frequently if it was compulsory to vote.

According to a voter most of the women family members stayed behind because they had to look after the cattle and some went to the hospital with the sick children.

People who worked in other districts were also the ones who did not show up for the mock election. A few students studying in other districts however did turn up for the mock election.

The minimum aged required to exercise the right to vote was another confusion for both the voters as well as the officers presiding the election.

While officer at the Uttarey polling station sent back children below 18 years, Gomtu polling station approved children who were 17 years because they would turn 18 years next year.

According to the presiding officer of Pugli and Gomtu polling stations where people of about 11 villages came to vote the voters who turned up to vote were mostly not registered with the Election Commission of Bhutan.

These voters were those whose voter registration forms were not correctly filled up, said the Pugli Gup, Lok Mani Gurung. "To make them eligible for the mock election the dzongkhag office had issued a letter to be shown to the polling officers for validation," he said.
One of the setbacks which placed voters in an inconvenient position was the polling station set up, according to Pugli Gup.

People from Thotney village had to walk five hours to their polling station in Gomtu. Thumkey village was suggested as a polling station for Thumkey, Thotney and Ratey. "If they were under Thumkey it would have taken them about one hour to reach the polling station," said the gup.

In Pugli gewog from about 3,500 eligible voters about 1,635 cast their votes. About 700 voters were not registered.

Contributed by Kinley Wangmo, Bhutan's National Newspaper, April 2007

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