The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has clarified that registered political parties and candidates can undertake “familiarisation tours” to the constituencies for preparatory activities.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) wrote to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) on August 15, seeking approval for candidates’ familiarisation tour in their respective constituencies and gewogs.

Citing the Political Parties Rules 2015, ECB wrote to DNT on August 17 that it was the “privilege” of a registered political party to carry out political activities without obtaining specific approval from ECB.

Section 10.7 of the Rules states: “A registered political party need not obtain specific approval to undertake political activities, such as holding consultative meetings or research in the dzongkhags/demkhongs or meetings with the respective party godenpas/jabchorpas/leyjepas during the non-election period.”

“However, basic formalities must be followed, informing the respective dzongkhags or dungkhags and law and order authorities about any such meetings to be convened,” ECB stated in an email response to Kuensel.

ECB also shared a copy of the approval letter issued to DNT with all political parties in case they too take the opportunity to visit constituencies for preparatory activities.

Some DNT candidates are currently in constituencies to “consult people for understanding the people’s issues at the grassroots”.

“Most of our candidates are in their constituencies across the nation listening to people and consulting with them about their problems,” the party’s president Dr Tandi Dorji said. “We want to understand their issues and expectations from the government.”

He said that such familarisation visits would help the party come up with a good manifesto.

Famililarisation tours, he said, are important not only for familarising the candidates and parties in the constituencies but also for making self-assessment of the candidate and party’s popularity on the ground. “Our candidates are meeting with people and collecting information,” Dr Tandi Dorji said.

He claimed that DNT has about 39 candidates as of now. Four of them, according to him, are in the civil service.

“Those candidates who are not in the civil service are visiting their constituencies,” he said.

However, the party thinks that it is too early to declare their names formally. “We have National Council elections before the National Assembly elections,” he said, adding that the party would announce the candidates when the election approaches near.

The party is also looking for innovative ways to reach out to the people using social media and other platforms.

As part of its “discussion and entertainment programme”, DNT is making short videos to promote the party. According to the party, the videos will not only help the party convey its messages but also receive feedback and comments.

The party’s membership grew from 135 in 2013 to 237 in 2016. The party claims that it has about 300 registered members today.

DNT won 17 percent of votes in the 2013 primaries. It won in two constituencies – Pheuntsholing and Thrimshing-Kangpara in Trashigang.

MB Subba