A campaign is carried out after the issuance of the notification calling an election

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has clarified that candidates and political parties cannot present their manifesto or seek votes during familiarisation tours to their constituency.

As more candidates embark on familiarisation tours, some confusion over the differences between a campaign and a familiarisation tour has arisen.

In an email response to Kuensel, the ECB stated that candidates could introduce themselves and hear from the electorate as part of their preparation to election.

An election campaign, ECB states, is carried out after the issuance of the notification calling an election. “A familiarisation or introductory tour is part of preparatory activities leading to the election campaign,” ECB stated.

Familiarisation tours are allowed both to aspiring candidates and political parties. Unlike during a campaign, candidates on familiarisation tours are not monitored by ECB although approval has to be sought from ECB.

“In essence, during the preparatory tours, candidates or political parties present themselves and primarily hear from the electorate. During the campaign period, however, the candidates or political parties would be presenting their manifesto and putting forward their vision and proposals to the electorate for their support on poll day,” ECB stated.

Only registered political parties can go on familiarisation tours.

“It may be noted that the political parties or aspiring candidates take on introductory tour only after receiving approval from the local authority as required under section 11(4) of the Political Party Rules and Regulations 2015,” it stated.

A political party or candidate undertaking introductory or party formation activities in a dzongkhag should make a courtesy call on the respective head of the local government to present the letter of introduction and get the approval of the schedule for visit. This will make sure that local authorities are informed about such activities.

According to ECB, registered political parties are expected to carry out party related activities with their registered members and office bearers as a routine activity, be it during or in between elections.

Vice President of Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, Sonam Tobgay, said that the two are entirely different although there is some misunderstanding among people.

“A familiarisation tour can be taken anytime to introduce the party and its principles,” he said, adding that the party or candidate can also provide his perspective of issues to the people. “We don’t seek votes during familiarisation.”

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa President Dr Tandi Dorji said that familiarisation tours are an opportunity for new parties and candidates to introduce themselves to the voters.

However, he said that the parties and candidates would not promise anything to the voters. “We also don’t ask the people to vote for us during the familiarisation tours,” he said.

He said that feedback received from the people would help them understand the issues and come up with a good manifesto. They would also meet registered members and seek new members from the constituency.

PDP’s candidate for Drametse-Ngatshang constituency, Tobgay (PhD) said that he is following the election rule that a candidate on a familiarisation tour cannot call mass meeting of more than three people. However, he said that he is meeting his constituents to introduce himself.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s candidate for Phuentshopelri-Samtse, Kamal Dan Chamling, who has started his familiarisation tour, said that he would introduce himself to the people.

He said familiarisation tours help new candidates to interact and understand the aspirations of the people. Introductory tours, he added, would also help a candidate to gauge the level of support for a candidate.

MB Subba