MB Subba 

With the next parliamentary elections approaching, the political ambitions of the executives who have been managed out through the leadership assessment exercise hinges on what the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) decides.

Many are of the perception that they will not be allowed to vie for elective posts although the ECB has not provided a clear answer on whether the managed out civil servants can take part in the political process.

In an emailed response to Kuensel queries, the ECB stated:  “The Election Commission of Bhutan allows aspiring candidates to contest elections upon fulfilling the set criteria outlined in the Constitution and Electoral laws of the Kingdom of Bhutan. If aspiring candidates fulfill the required criteria, the ECB will not prevent anyone from contesting the elections.”

The ECB stated that the required criteria for a candidate were prescribed under Sections 3 and 4 of Article 23 of the Constitution, which states that a candidate for an elective office shall fulfill the necessary educational and other qualifications prescribed in the electoral laws.

Section 179 of the election Act states that a person shall be disqualified as a candidate if he or she has been convicted for any criminal offence and dismissed or removed from public service or the corporate sector.

However, the issue is that neither the Constitution nor the election Act states whether the process of managing out civil servants can be construed as removal or dismissal from the service.

In a brief response to Kuensel on the issue, an official from the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) stated “the executives who left the civil service after the leadership assessment exercise exited through voluntary resignation”.

According to some officials, however, it is the ECB that should interpret the law and clarify the issue on time to avoid inconveniences during the election period.

The issue pertains to not only the 44 executives who have left the civil service as a result of the leadership assessment exercise but also those who could be managed out in the future. The RCSC has said that such assessments will be carried out on a regular basis.

Sources said that a few of the executives who were managed out have joined a new political party as candidates.

An MP who sought anonymity said that whether or not they will be eligible to vie for elective posts would depend on the provisions of the election Act.

He said that they could be considered as compulsory retired civil servants. However, he added that they could be eligible to participate in elections as they had not committed crimes that could lead to termination or removal from their service.

A party official said that many had perceived that the civil servants who have been managed out were not eligible to contest elections. He said that his party had not roped in any managed out civil servants as candidates.

Another MP said that he was of the view that they were eligible to partake in whatever profession they wish for outside of the civil service. “To me, it doesn’t make sense to bar them from taking up jobs outside of the mainstream civil service,” he said.

The secretary general of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Phurba, said that they should be allowed to participate in elections so long as the election Act does not mention about disqualifying civil servants who have been managed out.

“We have to go by the election Act. If the Act does not mention that they are ineligible, then there is no need for us to debate on whether or not they are eligible to contest elections,” he said.

The Constitution states that a Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to equal access and opportunity to join the public service.

The managed out executives Kuensel tried to talk to chose not to speak on the issue.

“I want to live a peaceful life. I’m not going to join politics or look for a job,” said one of the managed out executives.

Of the 47 executives who were not able to meet the assessment expectations, seven were secretaries, 22 were director-generals and 18 were directors.

The Constitution also states that a person shall be disqualified as a candidate or a member holding an elective office if the person is terminated from public service, convicted for any criminal offence or disqualified under any law made by Parliament among others.