The third local government (LG) election has not been short of excitement and controversy so far.
Unlike the previous elections, many chiwogs across the country fielded a record number of aspirants to the posts of gup, mangmi and tshogpa. However, like the previous two elections, we see numerous complaints and grievances including those against agencies responsible for the issue of clearances.
Three chiwogs in Pemagatshel, Punakha and Tsirang will nominate their gup and mangmi candidates again by tomorrow after their nominees were disqualified for not meeting the requirements.
The gup nominee from Shingchongri chiwog in Pemagatshel did not get his security clearance and the nominee from Pangthang chiwog in Tsirang had his audit clearance revoked. Changyul-Loongsilgang-Tashijong chiwog in Punakha nominee did not complete the cooling period after de-registering from a political party.
These chiwogs are lucky for they will get to nominate again. Rukha chiwog in Athang gewog, Wangdue will not have the second zomdu despite the disqualification of one candidate each for the post of gup and tshogpa. If the requirement to produce documents can be applied for all candidates at the dhamngoi zomdu, then such a situation would not arise.
In the case of former Dangchu gup, the Royal Audit Authority had inadvertently issued the clearance to him without referring to the letter from the Anti-Corruption Commission sent to the authority on September 30 this year. The ACC has already forwarded a case of abuse of function against the individual to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.
We hear that the authority is looking into revoking more clearances. The campaign begins tomorrow.
The thing to look into is that these individuals are alleged to have committed various offences. The cases are yet to be charged to court. The argument is they have not been convicted yet and are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law. Can the agencies be the judge and the jury?
A particular case cited repeatedly by observers is a recent case where a person alleged of fraud and charged to court contested in the election and went on to become a minister. Are we reading the law differently this time?
Despite being the third LG election, many aspirants could not participate because they have not de-registered themselves from the political parties that they have been part of knowingly or unknowingly in time. There is no excuse for this for it is incumbent entirely on the person to ensure that. Are they alone responsible for this?
This shows that we must do more for every able candidate we lose to such lapses, there is a huge cost to the foundation we are building for our democracy.
The causes of our problems are many and complicated. However, they must be fixed.
For instance, the political parties can display the list of members on their websites or submit an updated list to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) periodically. The aspiring candidates can enter their basic details and check their status. This is not difficult.
The ECB facilitating candidates to obtain documents can be a service that will make this process efficient, effective and less painful for all involved.
The number of such cases seems a small fraction against a huge number of candidates contesting in the election. However, for the chiwog that has lost its single nominee to such lapses, the difference is the air between the earth and the sky.