MB Subba

A forestry officer in Tsirang, who tendered her resignation from the civil service, is accused of campaigning in her constituency in Samtse.

More such allegations are expected to surface as the parliamentary election approaches.

However, political parties say that the rules are not applied uniformly to all the parties and that parties outside parliament do not have a level playing field.

Sources said that the social media user who accused her of campaigning could be affiliated to one of the political parties.

In a recent incident, some civil servants were reprimanded for inviting aspiring politicians to attend an official gathering in their school.

It was also learnt that aspiring politicians engaged with people as non-registered members of a political party. Such individuals, sources say, register as members of a political party during the election period.

A party official said that most of the aspiring politicians are engaged in indirect campaigning in one form or other.

The ruling party, sources say, could use its machinery to prohibit parties outside Parliament from engaging with the public or punish those who are seen as helping politicians.   

Kuensel learnt that some civil servants were reprimanded for inviting or letting aspiring politicians attend official gatherings during the election period.

An official from the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) said that the party would be “supportive” of it if the rules prohibiting political parties from engaging with the public were implemented uniformly to all the political parties.

“We definitely need a clarity from the ECB in all these things to ensure conducive political space where all the political parties can work in harmony,” he said.

Opposition Leader (OL) Dorji Wangdi is currently in eastern dzongkhags on an official tour.

Asked if the OL’s tour could be construed as an indirect campaign, the the DPT official said that the OL was duty-bound to go around and inform the people about the functions of parliament and the government.

“It is also his mandate to meet the people and discuss on issues and opportunities in front of them. Thus, the question of questioning the purpose of OL’s tour should not arise,” he said.

The People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) general secretary, Kuenga Tashi, said that the party was aware that campaigning was prohibited during the non-election period and refrained from doing so.

However, he added that the party communicates and meets with its coordinators and supporters for reasons not related to the election and politics.

“It is the responsibility of the party and the president to look after them whenever necessary. So long as the rule of law is protected and uniformly applied, PDP is not unhappy with the strict ECB rules and regulations,” he said.

Citing Section 268 of the election Act, the ECB recently issued a notification prohibiting people from sharing campaign materials on social media.

“Recently, it has come to the notice of the ECB that past campaign materials of the political parties are being widely shared via social media. The sharing of such campaign materials can be construed as election campaign and mislead the general public creating social disharmony in the community,” it stated.

The ECB also asked political parties not share campaign materials in any form until the announcement for the next elections is made.

The PDP’s secretary general said that the party did not understand the intent behind the ECB’s announcement.

The manifestos, he said, was produced with the ECB’s approval and was available in the public domain.

“Rather, it helps the people in understanding the performance of the government or any other political parties. It is the responsibility of the people to refer, review and reflect on the success and failure of the government and react accordingly,” he said.

The secretary general of the ruling party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Phurba, said that campaign activities were not allowed now and that such activities are monitored by the election commission and dzongkhag officials.

“Our duty as the ruling party is not to monitor what other parties are doing. The election commission and dzongkhags officials used to monitor us when we are outside of Parliament,” he said.

However, he said that the ruling party had not complained against political parties.