… parties risk hefty penalties if they pledge outside their manifestoes

Tshering Palden

The Election Commission of Bhutan yesterday warned political parties and their candidates not to discuss pledges not mentioned in their manifestoes.

The commission’s Director of Secretariat, Phub Dorji, issued a cautionary notice to all parties, asking them to stick only to pledges in their approved manifesto.

The letter stated that the commission has learned that a few parties are making pledges that are not in the manifesto or adding new ones. This, the director said, was happening despite repeated reminders from the ECB against such behaviour.

The commission stated that any party found repeating such actions would face no more warnings, and would be imposed penalties as stipulated in the election rules and regulations without consideration.

The party presidents are campaigning in different dzongkhags, and candidates have been attending common forums in their respective constituencies since November 6. The campaign period officially started on November 5.

The ECB established a new practice of vetting the political parties’ manifestoes by an independent committee of experts of its choosing.

According to the Rules on Elections Conduct 2022, the commission will have full discretion in determining and approving the parties’ manifestos, with or without modifications.

While initially, the commission estimated the scrutiny would take around two weeks, the process took a month with numerous rounds of meetings between the party representatives and the commission exchanging feedback and clarifications. Some pledges were recommended to be removed, others altered.

The purpose of the exercise was to scrutinise if there were party pledges that would be sensitive or against national interest and wayward promises that would attract the interest of voters but not be achievable.

The ECB approved the manifestos of all political parties after they made the changes on November 1.

Meanwhile, unlike the past parliamentary elections, there will be no door-to-door campaigning for candidates this election. According to the ECB, this decision was taken for the convenience of the candidates and voters. It is expected to curb corrupt activities during the campaigns.