Eligibility criteria spark heated debate

The House will continue the deliberation of Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill

Phub Dem

Discussion on the eligibility and qualification of cabinet or council of ministers sparked heated debate at National Council yesterday while deliberating on the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of Kingdom of Bhutan 2020.

Social and Cultural Affairs Committee (SCAC) of the House, which introduced the Bill, proposed the criteria for the nomination of the cabinet as an elected member of the National Assembly and possess qualification as prescribed in the Constitution and other relevant laws.

Gasa’s MP Dorji Khandu, said that due to lack of specific requirement, people’s trust and confidence in the cabinet had declined over the years. The people, he said, had begun raising concerns over the new and young ministers.

“Qualification and experiences should be a crucial condition.” 

The absence of specific criteria, if continued, would become a political game, he added.

Dorji Khandu said that for the sake of gaining majority votes, there were chances that the ministers would be nominated from the dzongkhags with a bigger population and more constituencies, which would have impact on balanced economic development.

“For instance, Thimphu—the capital and most developed dzongkhag—has both two ministers—prime minister and health minister,” he said, adding that selection of cabinet ministers could become a political pledge in the future. “Such practices could undermine the credibility and authenticity of the position.”

Chukha’s MP Sangay Dorji said that the criteria were already mentioned in the Constitution and Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Some members were of the stand that there were already limited people coming forward to join the politics, and said that rules should not restrict anyone.  In a democracy, they argued, door should be kept open for any individual who fulfils the general criteria to join a political party and appointment to the cabinet.

The eligibility and qualification with other clauses will be re-deliberated.

Dorji Khandu further said that there was no rule to remove a prime minister if the vote of no confidence was against the PM.

Chapter 17 of Bill states that the removal of prime minister or ministers will require a two-third-majority vote of no confidence.

Some provisions of Lhengye Zhungtshog Act of 1999, which was enacted before the Constitution, were found to be contradicting with the Constitution. The National Law Review Taskforce also found the Act redundant and recommended repeal.

Considering the important role of the executive, deputy chair of the committee, Ugyen Namgay, said that a separate Act was required for guidance and convenience while executing its power and functions.

The Bill has ten chapters and 83 sections including set procedures for the formation and composition, powers, responsibilities, and functions including its Secretariat to enable the Lhengye Zhungtshog to discharge its responsibilities in an efficient, fair and transparent manner.

The Bill also prescribes code of conduct for the members of the Lhengye Zhungtshog to preserve and enhance the public’s confidence and trust.

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