Dechen Dolkar

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has announced the schedule for the fourth National Assembly elections, following the Royal Decree issued by His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo on October 14.

The primary round of the election is set for November 30, 2023 and the general round will be conducted on January 9, 2024.

In accordance with Section 189 of the Election Act, elections to the National Assembly occur in two stages: the primary and the general. During the primary round, registered political parties, whose Letter of Intent (LoI) meets all the necessary criteria and is accepted by the ECB, will compete in all 20 dzongkhags.

The two parties securing the highest and second-highest number of votes across the 20 dzongkhags will receive invitations from the ECB to nominate one candidate each to contest the general elections in each of the 47 demkhongs.

Today is the deadline for political parties to submit their LoI. The ECB will review the LoI submissions and issue acceptance or rejection letters tomorrow.

Campaigning will commence from tomorrow, and there will be three rounds of public debates for the primary round. The first round will feature party presidents and will be held on Monday. The second round, involving party representatives, is scheduled for Tuesday, while the third round, with party vice presidents, will take place on November 23.

On November 7, the ECB will release the campaign fund and initiate the common forum.

Special early voting facilities will be available as a special service for persons with disabilities (PwDs) from November 23 to 25 for the primary round and January 2 to 4, 2024, for the general elections.

The filing of nominations for the general elections by candidates from the two parties with the highest and second-highest votes in the primary round will take place from December 4 to 9.

The campaign for the general election will start on December 12. Campaign funds will be released on December 13.

Each political party participating in the elections, according to the ECB, is eligible for a campaign fund of Nu 150,000 for each constituency in the primary elections. Furthermore, a political party cannot exceed the election campaign expenditure ceiling of Nu 300,000 in each of the 47 demkhongs.

Candidates contesting the general elections are also eligible for a campaign fund of Nu 150,000, with the condition that they do not exceed the election campaign expenditure ceiling of Nu 300,000.

The ECB will assign legal officers on deputation to the central dispute settlement body and dzongkhags, where needed.

The election code of conduct will remain in effect from November 3, 2023, until January 10, 2024.

Polling hours are scheduled from 8 am to 4 pm.

From January 10 to 24, 2024, individuals can file appeals against decisions made by the ECB or issues related to the poll day or Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), following the provisions of the Election Act, 2008, concerning the filing of an election petition.