Dechen Dolkar

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has imposed strict rules on candidates for elective office who resign without reasonable necessity before their term is completed.

Phub Dorji, the Director of the Secretariat of ECB, explained that the reason for implementing the new rules and regulations is to ensure that anyone who stands for an elective post is committed to serving the nation and her people. He stated that this commitment is crucial in determining the suitability of a candidate for the post.

He also highlighted that the implementation of these rules is aimed at building trust and confidence among the people since candidates often resign from their posts due to dissatisfaction. Finally, he noted that elections are a costly affair for the state, and ECB has to spend significant sums of money on bye-elections.

 Since the implementation of these new rules and regulations on August 29th of last year, five local government members have resigned before their terms were completed. Among them were one gup, one mangmi, and three tshogpas.

 According to the Rules on Election Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan 2022, any candidate for an elective office who resigns without reasonable necessity, as determined by the Commission, shall be fined the minimum wage for 360 days and/or required to refund all state campaign funds given for parliamentary elections or local governments. Additionally, such candidates will be disqualified from all future elections.

 The rules further stipulate that these penalties will apply unless the candidate can prove, to the satisfaction of the Commission, that the resignation was reasonably necessary, taking into account all the surrounding circumstances, including physical or mental illness or fundamental breakdown of the relationship between the candidate and his or her party. The candidate must also demonstrate that such resignation was in the overall interest of the Kingdom of Bhutan. 

 The Commission will assess whether the resignation was reasonably necessary, and only unavoidable circumstances will qualify as such.

 “If the candidates cannot prove reasonable necessity, they will be fined,” said the spokesperson. In the case of the five local government members who resigned to go to Australia, the Commission imposed individual fines of Nu 45,000 since they could not prove reasonable necessity.

For Members of Parliament (MPs), the rules state that if they resign, the candidate must refund the state funding, campaign materials, and the minimum wage rate of one year. This means MPs must refund campaign funds of Nu 150,000, campaign material funds of around Nu 100,000, and a minimum wage rate of Nu 45,000.

 Since the first parliamentary elections, five elected members have resigned before their tenure was completed. In 2013, the former Prime Minister, Jigme Y Thinley, resigned from the parliament, but the reason for his resignation remains unknown. In August 2016, the DPT candidate Kinga Tshering of North Thimphu resigned from the MP post after the National Assembly could not grant him a long-term study leave to attend Harvard University in the USA. In August 2020, the former Opposition Leader, Pema Gyamtsho, resigned from parliament after being selected as Director General of ICIMOD. In May 2021, former Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen resigned from his minister post and MP after the larger bench of the High Court convicted him to two months in prison for claiming false vehicle insurance amounting to Nu 226,546. In November 2021, the MP of Khamdang-Ramjar constituency, Kuenga Loday, resigned from the MP post after being sentenced to five years in prison by the Trashiyangtse dzongkhag court for illegal construction of a road in a restricted area.