… following scrutiny of the pledges by a committee of experts

Dechen Dolkar

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) approved the manifestos of all political parties on November 1 after a month-long review by an independent anonymous committee of experts.

When the manifestos were submitted, ECB officials said that the review process would take around two weeks. However, the review took a month with numerous rounds of discussions between the parties and the commission.

Political parties were not allowed to meet with the expert committee members to provide clarifications. The committee sought comments and justifications from the political parties through ECB officials. Parties representatives and the ECB officials had three rounds of consultation.

It was learnt that the committee made several changes to the pledges. However, parties were not allowed to share the details with the public until the campaign began. The parties are not allowed to alter any part of the content in the approved manifestos.

Political parties have launched their manifestos. Bhutan Tendrel Party will launch their manifesto today.

According to the party spokesperson and Bji-Kartshog-Uesu Candidate, Tshering Dorji, BTP can make their manifesto public only at a date that will be set by the ECB.

Since BTP’s manifesto was grounded on a thorough understanding of the ground realities based on a wider public consultation, he said that BTP was able to come up with a manifesto that is specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and time-bound. “So the changes were not very significant,” he said.

He added that the comments from the ECB were mainly about strategies outlined in the manifesto about achieving some aspects of the economy, local government, youth and health. This, he said was mainly due to the differences in understanding of the issues, which was difficult to comprehend since ECB has accorded approval to the core pledges related to these sectors.

“ECB appreciated our position after explaining the background to them in person and was willing to accommodate these changes. However, the ECB decided to honour the independent evaluation committee’s views as final and they were convinced,” Tshering Dorji said.

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) launched its manifesto yesterday. DTT president, Kinga Tshering said that their pledge prioritised economics starting from economic philosophy, the broad areas of economic activities, some modern concepts and frameworks and detailed granular plans and pledges at the grassroots level.

He said that 99.9 percent of their manifesto proposals were accepted by the committee.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) General Secretary, Kuenga Tashi said that their manifesto is bold, ambitious and unprecedented with a clear goal to transform Bhutan into a developed nation in the next five years.

“This manifesto is borne out of the aspirations and needs expressed by people in 20 dzongkhags and 205 gewogs during our extensive consultations with the people across the country,” he said. “After multiple consultations with the committee, a few critical pledges were removed.”

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) Bratsham-Shongphu candidate, and also the Spokesperson of the party, Passang Dorji (PhD) said that their manifesto focuses on comprehensive socio-economic development with equity and justice to ensure the well-being of future generations of Bhutanese, fostering prosperity, integrity and harmony.

“There were comments seeking clarifications on 91 pledges. Some were recommended to be removed,” he said.

Druk Nyamrup Tshopga (DNT) general secretary Phurba said that their manifesto focuses on economic, social, health and education sectors.

“The pledge to provide financial support to community lhakhang was removed by the committee,” he said.

The ECB was not available for comments.