The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has rejected registration of the Druk Kuenphen Tshogpa (DKT). ECB was dissatisfied with the party’s leadership capacity and competence.
The decision was conveyed to the party’s founding president, Jigme Drukpa, yesterday through a letter although it was signed on July 28.
ECB stated that after due scrutiny and review in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral laws, it concluded that “the Druk Kuenphen Tshogpa cannot be registered as a political party in the Kingdom of Bhutan as the applicant party is found neither prepared nor convincing in terms of its leadership capacity, competence and readiness to shoulder the responsibility of a registered political party.”
ECB, however, acknowledged the efforts of the applicant political party to engage in the democratic life of the nation through the formation of a political party. “Despite providing support with detailed observations and the opportunity given to rectify the inconsistencies, the aspiring party could not submit any further documents to address the various concerns and issues,” the ECB wrote to the party.
Jigme Drukpa said that ECB was broadly unsatisfied with three issues – the party’s charter, lack of tentative candidates, and broad-based membership.
The party was given a chance to rework and present necessary documents to ECB. However, Jigme Drukpa said that ECB provided only 48 hours to rectify the charter and other inconsistencies.
According to him, the party had submitted the names of 108 members among whom 41 were university graduates. “But ECB told us that we need a mix of people of all ages,” he said.
The registration application was first submitted on June 13. Jigme Drukpa said ECB returned the application to the party after more than a month on July 18, asking the party to rework on the application and the charter and submit them to ECB on July 20.
Jigme Drukpa also said that ECB had asked for the names of 47 tentative candidates and to refine the party charter. “It is irrelevant for ECB at this stage to ask the names of 47 candidates. Some of our candidates are still in the civil service and corporations. How can we reveal them now?” he asked, adding that it was not possible for the party to rectify the inconsistencies in 48 hours.
He also said that ECB’s statement questioning the leadership of his party did not make any sense.
“ECB remained silent until July 18. What were they doing from the date I submitted the application (June 13,) until July 18? They should have told us earlier about the inconsistencies so that we would have rectified them,” he said. “This indicates that ECB was bent on disqualifying the party.”
Jigme Drukpa said that ECB had failed to provide registration details and requirements. “It’s a daunting task to register a party,” said Jigme Drukpa, who has been working for the last six months to form the party.
ECB denying registration of the party has not dampened Jigme Drukpa’s spirit. He said that he would soon come up with a new party.
“We have been wounded, but the wound is shallow and can be healed within a few weeks,” he said. “We have now learned the registration procedure in detail. We will rectify our shortcomings in our application for our new party.”
According to the Political Parties Rules and Regulations, an application for registration should be made to ECB a month after its formation. The name of the political party, party symbol, the names and addresses of its president, secretary, treasurer, and other office-bearers, should also be submitted along with other relevant documents.
A party should have “broad-based with cross-national membership and support in all dzongkhags.”
The applicant party must also submit the names of registered members from each dzongkhag along with the accounts of the fees and voluntary contributions received as on the day of the submission of the application, according to the rule.
ECB stated in its announcement that the registration application was filed on June 30, 2017. The application was subjected to due scrutiny and review against the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral laws, and was provided detailed feedback and opportunity to submit revised documents throughout the process by ECB.
According to ECB, the party had no members for 13 National Assembly constituencies and 15 registered were members found “irregular and not in compliance”.
ECB stated the party lacked credible leadership, maturity and mix in age and experience of the potential candidates with eight of them aged 23 and 24 years old, twenty-six aged 25 to 29 years, and six between 30-38 years with one found to be not even a registered voter in the Electoral Roll, said ECB.
ECB also stated that the financial statement covering income and expenditure did not match the Bank Statement submitted with the reported rental expenditures actually not being paid, which it added “basically amounts to false reporting.”
The party charter, according to ECB, was found “lacking” with gaps, weaknesses and inconsistencies in the critical areas of intra-party governance and democratic practices with no clear party structure besides non-inclusion of the mandatory provisions required under Section 136 of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2008. The commission found that the documents were not properly edited or proofread with obvious signs of copy-paste from other sources, “which, amongst others, indicate the lack of seriousness and/or professional competence.”