NC amendments put an end to door-to-door campaigns, among other recommendations

Election: A political party shall be prohibited from conducting door-to-door election campaigns.  This will also apply to the National Council and local government elections.

Besides, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) shall determine the number of jabchorpas/leyjapas (supporters) permitted to engage in political party campaigns, and they will not be allowed to campaign outside their jurisdiction.  Common forums shall also be taken to as many chiwogs as deemed appropriate.  ECB shall not require candidates to use banners during election campaigns as a cost cutting measure.

These are some of the amendment to the election rules, guidelines, and handbooks that the council endorsed on May 29.  The council will now recommend ECB to incorporate these provisions in the election rules, guidelines and handbooks.              

The need to address these elected related issues, according to council’s legislative chairman, Kuenlay Tshering, were based on submissions made by people from various constituencies, and also discussed in the dzongkhag tshogdus.

The legislative committee on May 25 presented its report on 12 election related issues.  The house adopted some issues and directed the legislative committee to revisit others that the house did not adopt.  The house resolved that the legislative committee submit a final report for adoption taking into consideration all the concerns raised by the members.

Committee chairman Kuenlay Tshering said that, as directed by the house, a meeting was held on May 26 during which they discussed the issues that the house did not adopt.  Members, who expressed their concerns, also participated in the meeting. “The final report has been prepared following comprehensive deliberations on the issues,” he said.

Of the 12 issues submitted earlier, the house adopted eight issues that are related to door-to-door campaigning, common forums, jabchorpas/leyjarpas, size of photos, university degree, and cost cutting measures.

As of now, door-to-door campaign is not allowed between 6pm and 6am, while the number of supporters is limited to one per chiwog.  There is no limit set for leyjarpas, as per the election rules, which, people said, created a lot of issues, as candidates appointed more than one jabchorpas.  The house also endorsed that ECB shall accept university degree of candidates, once attested by the Royal University of Bhutan, which also includes degrees earned through distance education.  Besides, the size of photographs on electronic voting machines, according to the council should also be increased for clarity.

Legislative committee’s deputy chairman, Sangay Khandu, said the banners cost about Nu 40,000 but were not worth the expenditure, as they were just used just once, unlike posters. “This incurs unnecessary cost during elections,” Samtse’s council member said.

The legislative committee’s chairman earlier submitted that as directed by the house during the last session, the committee also consulted ECB on election related issues.

Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the ECB has not heard officially from the council on the recommendations.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that the number of jabchorpas was specified in the revised election rules and regulations that had been distributed to the agencies concerned.  With regard to common fora, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that, as ECB was taking common fora to chiwogs, this could reduce door-to-door campaigns.

“We can’t deprive candidates from door-to-door campaigning altogether, as it’s also a question of individual rights,” Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said.

By Kinga Dema