16 candidates disqualified over party affiliation

LG: A gup candidate from Damji chiwog in Khamaed gewog of Gasa, Kinley Penjore, whose name is reflected as a registered member of the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), has been allowed to contest after BKP clarified to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) that he had de-registered.

A few days after his nomination, the former monk had received a call from the ECB, saying that he was a BKP member. A member of a political party is disqualified from contesting in the LG elections.

He was cleared to contest after BKP general secretary Karma Jimba appealed in writing to the ECB that it was the party’s oversight to have retained him as a member in the membership list. The general secretary said that although Kinley Penjore had applied for de-registration, his name was not removed due to an administrative oversight.

“The error was on the party’s side. The problem has been solved,” he said.

Kinley Penjore said he also appealed to the ECB in writing that he had not renewed his membership. He had earlier claimed that the party had renewed his membership without his knowledge.

“I testified to the ECB everything in writing,” he said. “I am now contesting.”

According to a recent press release from the ECB, the nomination of 32 candidates were rejected. There were 16 cases of disqualification in view of affiliation with political parties and non-fulfillment of cooling period of one year.

According to BKP, the ECB removes the names of members only upon the recommendation of the party. The BKP charter states that a member has to renew his or her membership every year during the period prescribed for the same by remitting the annual membership fee.

The charter also states that membership will be revoked if the annual membership fee is not paid within 30 days from the date of such request as aforesaid unless the competent authority in the party extends such a deadline.

As per the election Act, a member of a political party should have attained a cooling period of one year to be eligible to contest in the elections.

Another political party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), saw some of its members approaching the party, saying that they had been disqualified. But they were not as lucky as the Khamaed gup candidate, although DNT pursued their cases with the ECB.

DNT President Dr Tandin Dorji said the party held discussions with the ECB and explained that their membership had expired. “Many of our former members have been disqualified,” he added.

The main reason behind the issue, Dr Tandin Dorji said, was the poor record keeping system of the ECB. He said when the candidates approached the party for de-registration, the party’s membership list with the ECB showed that they were not members.

The ECB has now published annual lists of members for each party and a separate list of de-registered members.

Dr Tandin Dorji cautioned that if the problem continues to prop up in every election, democracy will be weakened. “There is a chance that people would not join political parties, in which case political parties will be based only in Thimphu,” he said.

A total of 3,463 candidates are contesting in the ongoing elections.

Currently, 58 returning officers and as many national observers are initiating common forums at the chiwog level. Common forums are a campaign platform, where candidates address and present their manifestos to the electorates.

MB Subba 

Supported by Bhutan Media Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

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