Dechen Dolkar

Elections can be an expensive affair and the new political parties know it well. Having to introduce their party, president and candidates to the voters, new political parties are allowed familiarisation (FAM) tour in all the 20 dzongkhags. The two new political parties  Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) and Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) had been to more than a dozen dzongkhags.

With the state campaign fund released only after the submission of the letter of intent and the announcement of the election schedule, political parties have to rely on party coordinators, members and candidates to meet the cost of FAM tours.

Party officials said that they managed the expense by car-pooling, relying on coordinators for free meals and accommodations, and many more austerity measures.

Political parties are eligible for state funds during the National Assembly elections if it has been registered for contesting the primary round of elections to the National Assembly (NA) in 20 dzongkhags.

The application for funds should be accompanied by a copy of the certificate of registration as a political party issued by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the letter of intent stating its intention to participate in the elections to the NA in accordance with the Election Act.

According to the Election Act of Bhutan a political party can raise funds from registration fees, membership fees and voluntary contributions from registered members.

A party is entitled to accept voluntary contributions, financial or in kind, made by any of its registered members provided the total value of such contributions does not exceed Nu 500,000 per member per year or as may be fixed by the Commission from time to time.

Any in-kind contribution including voluntary time put in for party works or for providing rent-free rooms for housing the dzongkhag party office must be accorded monetary value and be accounted for in the party’s financial reports as voluntary contributions of the concerned registered members.

Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) president, Dasho Pema Chewang along with five members covered 15 dzongkhags during the recent FAM tour. Party officials said that they started the FAM tour with the fund from the registration fees of Nu 200 and an annual membership fee of Nu 100 collected from more than 250 registered members besides contributions from a few candidates.

“We were overwhelmed by the generosity of our people in the different communities who offered us food and shelter out of their own will. Our dzongkhag coordinators have also helped us with the logistics,” a party official said.

The party also said that in a few places where they had to put up and eat in hotels, they requested owners for credit facilities.

The parties declined to share funds spent on the recent FAM tour and the amount of voluntary contributions candidates made.

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) president, Kinga Tshering along with a few members completed their FAM tour in 17 dzongkhags. Party officials said that the accounts for the FAM tours will be maintained as per the ECB accounting rules for the political parties.

Recently, the People’s Democratic Party’s president Dasho Tshering Tobgay also travelled to the dzongkhags to meet coordinators. “We have been managing funds from the little contributions the party receives from our candidates and members,” a party spokesperson said.

ECB Spokesperson Phub Dorji said that a political party’s account and source of funds would be known during the registration of the party with the ECB they have to declare them. The ECB monitors the source of funds and expenditures. “The party has to submit the expenditure incurred during the FAM tour,” he said.