The election period for the third National Assembly election commenced yesterday with the Druk Gyalpo issuing the Royal Kasho calling the election, chief election commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said yesterday on the national television.

The chief election commissioner said that the primary round of the election would be held on September 15 and the general round on October 18.

The poll day for the primary will coincide with Thimphu Drubchoe. The polls for the general election will fall a day ahead of Dashain (Tika), which falls on October 19.

Section 189 of the Election Act states that elections to the National Assembly shall be held in two rounds, the primary and the general. In the primary round, all registered political parties shall be eligible to participate and contest.

To determine which parties will make it through to the general round, voters in the country will vote on the symbols of the political parties.

In the general election, the election Act states that the two registered political parties securing the highest number and the next highest number of total valid votes cast in the primary round throughout the Kingdom are declared to be eligible to participate through nomination of candidates to contest the National Assembly seats.

Chogyal Dago Rigdzin, however, clarified that parties must have a tentative list of candidates, which should be submitted along with the letter of intent, to be eligible to contest the primary. “If a party does not have 47 candidates, that party is not ready for the election,” he said.

The membership of political parties, he said, should be broad-based and that democracy should in the interest of the country.

Political parties must submit the letter of intent within seven days after the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) issues the notification calling the election. The commission is scheduled to formally issue the notification today.

The chief election commissioner said that the strategy for the election has been worked out and that officials, including returning officers, will be deployed accordingly. “Officials have been trained and we are ready for the election,” he said.

Chogyal Dago Rigdzin also said that he found that all the parties have readied themselves for the election.

According to the chief election commissioner, more than 430,000 Bhutanese are eligible to vote in the elections. There were a total of 432,030 eligible voters in the National Council election held in April this year.

He said that the ECB has also extended postal ballot facility to not only civil servants but also to their dependents and some voters from the private sector.

The chief election commissioner said that both postal ballots and electronic voting machines (EVM) are secured and that rumours about their reliability could affect public trust on the election process. EVMs, he said, are guarded by security personnel and are used in presence of representatives of political parties/candidates, election officials and observes.

A party that does not secure a minimum of 10 percent of the votes will not be eligible for state funds in the next election.

The National Assembly dissolved on August 1 and the house should be reconstituted within 90 days from the date of its dissolution. This means that a new national Assembly should be in place before October ends.

According to the election Act, the ECB shall, by notification, announce the last date or dates on which a poll shall be taken for any election to the National Assembly, which shall be a date not later than 30th day after the issue of notification, in the case of primary round of election.

MB Subba