Hundreds of people have registered as membership in multiple political parties although the election Act bars a person from becoming a member of more than one party at a time.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) during the review of the parties’ annual report recently found that about 500 people had registered in more than one political party.

The ECB also detected that the citizenship identity cards of some members were found invalid. The names of other members submitted to the ECB were not registered in the draft electoral roll for the upcoming National Assembly elections.

The cases of such inconsistencies and irregularities could actually be higher since the political parties say they have not submitted their complete list of members to the ECB.

ECB secretary Dawa Tenzin on August 13 wrote to the secretary-generals of all four political parties, asking them to verify the membership list again and submit a corrected list to the commission at the earliest possible.

“With regard to multiple membership, a person can be a registered member of only one party. Therefore, kindly inform the members to only be in one party of his or her choice,” Dawa Tenzin stated in the letter.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) spokesperson Sonam Tobgay said that his party would submit the corrected list as soon as possible fulfilling ECB deadlines ahead of time.

“Such errors have occurred with all four political parties and BKP has also seen fewer inconsistencies largely due to either demise of the person(s) and others due to typographical errors while punching data in our database,” he said.

Sonam Tobgay is of the view that large membership numbers will only merit goodness if registration is carried out religiously and sincerely, reflecting support base.

Member and former general secretary of PDP Sonam Jatso said that a person who has registered in more than one party could choose to be in one party by deregistering from other parties.

“Individuals should know if he or she is already a member of another party. If there is some suspicion we will go to the ECB website and check,” he said.

DPT general secretary Sangay Phurba said that some of the members left their previous party without deregistering. “But the problem is being sorted out now,” he said.

A candidate from DNT said that some people were joining all the parties to maximise the benefits of joining politics. “Some people are loitering because they think they get something from political parties,” he said.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa spokesperson Dr Tandi Dorji said the party could not find out whether or not a person has already registered in another political party.

However, Dr Tandi Dorji said that most members are genuine supporters and that the names of members whose names are registered in more than one party would be deleted.

According to lists of members published by ECB in July, DNT has 4,877 registered members, the highest among the four parties.

DPT, as of July, has 2,186 registered members. As of June end, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has 1,298 members while BKP has 791 registered members.

Although the election schedule is yet to be released, the parties have already submitted their tentative lists of candidates to the ECB.

The parties must officially submit a tentative list of candidates along with the Letter of Intent, which should be submitted within seven days from the day the poll dates are announced.

Although not the sole indicator, parties agree that the membership base was politically significant for parties. However, DPT officials claim that all its party members registered voluntarily while claiming that some were forcing people to register as members.

Figures show that the number of people who have registered as members of political parties for the 2018 elections is much larger than those who deregistered following the 2013 elections. Most members registered in 2017 and 2018.

Five years ago, DPT had 800 registered members, while PDP had 242. DNT had 135 members and BKP had 253 members.

MB Subba