Dechen Dolkar

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) asked the political parties to stop the familiarisation (FAM) tour and public consultation meetings by 5pm on October 8.

The commission had previously approved FAM tours and public consultations for the political parties to prepare and consult on their manifestos.

According to the notification issued to the parties on October 5, since manifestos were already submitted to the commission on September 28, there is no need for additional consultations and familiarisation tours for the parties.

Director of the ECB Secretariat and Spokesperson, Phub Dori, said that the commission had given political parties sufficient time for FAM tours for new political parties and public consultation for old political parties.

He said that the commission had already briefed general secretaries of all the political parties at a meeting three months ago.

He said that now the parties cannot provide additional pledges since they have already submitted their manifestos to the commission.

All five political parties have been on extensive familiarisation tours and public consultations in almost all dzongkhags. However, a few parties were unable to cover a few dzongkhags and some gewogs.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) General Secretary, Kuenga Tashi said that the party will complete public consultation in 18 dzongkhags by Sunday. Currently, the party president is visiting Trashiyantse.

Consequently, due to this abrupt announcement, party president Dasho Tshering Tobgay will wrap up the gewog consultation meeting within the remaining days, according to the party.

Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) General Secretary, Tshering Nidup, said that the intent of the FAM tour is to create a level playing field among the political parties and it is very helpful for new parties.

“However, BTP is the last party to register and within a short time, we tried to cover most of the constituencies but we still couldn’t cover a few gewogs and one constituency,” he said. The party was on the FAM tour for five months.

Initially, when the party sought tour approval from ECB, he said, they were granted until the end of October. “While such decisions seriously affected our plan, we will abide by the rules and regulations.”

It was learnt that the party had sought approval for the FAM tour until the end of this month after the notification. However, the ECB denied the request.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa General Secretary, Phurba said that the party has completed public consultation with almost all dzongkhags.

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa General Secretary, Kuenga Namgay, said that the party has completed the FAM tour in all dzongkhags except for a few chiwogs which are left which they plan to visit during the campaign period. The party started the FAM tour in September last year.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa General Secretary, Sonam Tashi, said that the party has covered four dzongkhags for public consultation. However, he said that the party has no issue with stopping the public consultation.

It was learnt that an independent committee is still reviewing the political parties’ manifestos and the ECB has been sending additional queries to parties.