Campaigning officially started yesterday for the third National Council (NC) election slated for April 20.

The month-long campaign period will end on April 18.

Spokesperson of the Election Commission of Bhutan, Phub Dorji, said that candidates could also announce their candidature on social media platforms like Facebook.

“But the ECB will monitor the use of social media by candidates,” he said.

However, according to the ECB, a candidate will not be allowed to use his title, designation, rank, kabney/rachu, pata/geyntag, or any other insignia or symbol of an office held earlier during the campaign. This will also apply to the representatives or supporters of a candidate.

The venues of the election events, election officials said, have been as far as possible arranged at locations that do not require the wearing of the kabney and rachu.

The candidates will address common forums arranged by returning officers in consultation with their respective election coordinators and security coordinators at the gewog and thromde level.

According to election officials, common forums are arranged for reducing the necessity to call for public meetings by each candidate separately and thereby avoiding inconvenience to voters of attending multiple sessions.

A candidate can also go on a door-to-door campaign between 6am and 6pm.

Screening of any audiovisual products or documentary clips and display of written or pictorial materials, which depict the past achievements of a candidate are also prohibited.

ECB will start releasing public campaign funds from March 22.  Each candidate will be eligible to apply for up to Nu 150,000.

Campaign funds are spent on campaign office spaces, utilities like water, telephone and electricity and goods and services for direct campaign purposes.

Other permissible expenses are for hire of vehicles for campaign purposes and renting of office automation equipment.

However, candidates cannot serve meals or refreshments to the public or voters. Candidates also cannot pay people for attending meetings or produce and distribute tokens like T-shirts and caps.

According to the ECB, midhey gothrips (local leaders) shall not participate, directly or indirectly, or give grounds to reasonably construe support, opposition, or dislike of any candidate contesting the elections.

During the campaign period, ministers and members of Parliament from particular constituency are barred to make their presence. However, they can travel to cast votes on the poll days if he or she decides not to avail of the postal ballot facility.

“If such travel to a constituency becomes unavoidable, he or she shall seek permission and first report to the concerned Returning Officer,” states a notification from the ECB.

MB Subba