… if political parties do not follow election rules

Dechen Dolkar

With allegations of political parties campaigning even before the official campaign period is announced, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) may disallow the familiarisation tours for new political parties and consultation meetings for the old political parties.

ECB officials have clarified that parties are only allowed to introduce their president, logo, ideology and vision to the voters during familiarisation tours. The consultative meetings for the old parties are to consult with their registered members only. Political parties can discuss the way forward which can help the party to review their manifestos with registered members.

However, ECB officials said that depending on political party’s behaviour, the commission may soon disallow the familiarisation tour and consultation meetings. There is a thin line between campaigning and familiarisation tours or consultation meetings. “If there are more allegations flying, we might have to withdraw it,” said an ECB official.  No official complaint, however, was lodged with the ECB.

Meanwhile, political parties are refuting that they are engaged in campaigning.

Old parties

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) led by the Vice President Dasho Sonam Kinga (PhD) is conducting consultation meetings. The party claimed that they have covered half of the 47 constituencies.

The party’s General Secretary, Phurba, said that political parties are obliged to consult with citizens all the time and that the regulations governing political parties allow consultation with the public during non-election period.

He said that DNT is collecting feedback on its performance for the last five years and gathering views and suggestions from the people to improve the party’s manifesto during the consultations.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has completed consultation meetings in 10 dzongkhags so far. The party’s general secretary, Kuenga Tashi, said that the party has a positive outlook towards the ongoing consultations since it’s also an opportunity to legitimise the priorities set for the country and people.

Party officials claimed that the new parties have been taking advantage of the familiarisation tour and campaigning from the very start of their supposed familiarisation tours. The general secretary claimed that they have suggested to ECB to not have any election activities, familiarisation or consultations, before the end of the current government’s term since it unnecessarily burdens and creates confusion among the people.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has recently initiated consultations in one dzongkhag. Party officials claimed that they focus only on consultation meetings with members and coordinators, discussing the way forward with them and appointing new coordinators, if necessary.

Allegations of promises to provide Isuzu hilux pickup trucks to replace Boleroes, facilitate land and citizenship, bigger share of budget to gewogs, jobs, and  other developmental actitivities are rife among various circles, party members said.

New parties

Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) had been to 13 dzongkhags on familiarization tours.

The party denied pledging or campaigning. Party officials said that their primary objective during the tour is to familiarise the public with the party. They said they use this platform to explain the rationale behind their name, symbol, and ideology and introduce their president and candidates.

The party claimed that most of their meetings are attended by election officials or representatives to ensure compliance with regulations.

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) has conducted familiarisation tours in all dzongkhags. Party officials said that they educate voters about the choices they represent. “There is always time allocated for campaigning,” said an official.

However, it was learnt that ECB officials or representatives are not present at some of the familiarisation tours and consultation meetings held by political parties.