With their audit clearance reinstated, it is a case of all is well for the nine candidates who are cleared to contest the upcoming local government elections. It might have caused them a lot of trouble and “harassment” as some of them said, but the candidates are happy as long as they received a second chance.

It is not about them winning or authorities that came in their way as a hurdle, losing, but candidates, eight of them contesting for the gup’s post, are having the last laugh. As they go back to their gewogs with their heads held high, the incident has brought out some important issues.

The aspiring candidates were given the clean chit to contest until the last moment when their audit clearance, a mandatory document to contest elections, were revoked following an Anti Corruption Commission interference. The anti graft body received some complaints, new and old, and nudged the Royal Audit Authority to revoke their audit clearance.

The candidates, believing that they are innocent until proven guilty, appealed to the ACC, RAA and even sought legal interference. Some of them were ready to refund the entire cost of a bye-election if they were found guilty or convicted after the elections. That was the confidence that made them stay in the capital and run from offices to offices to right the wrong.

All these, like some of them said after the recent decision, could have been avoided if the constitutional bodies worked together or consulted each other before revoking the audit clearance. The revoke order came after the Dhamngoi Zomdu, the first round of the LG elections.  Candidates apply for clearances way before the zomdu, when they decide to contest. 

The result of the botched decision is two rounds of elections in eight gewogs. The Election commission of Bhutan issued an order yesterday rescheduling elections in the eight gewogs. Election of other candidates in the gewogs will go ahead as scheduled on December 22. The eight gewogs will have another round to elect eight gups and a tshopgpa on January 6.

While the candidates were trying to clear their names, voting through postal ballots had already started. Some of the candidates were even willing to forgo the postal ballot, confident of winning from the support of the people in the gewogs who will vote on the electronic voting machine on the poll day.

 However, the issue is not about who will win or lose, but about coordination within our authorities. The whole drama has come to nothing. It could have been avoided with a little consultation. The Election Commission had nothing to do with the issue. They will abide by election rules. If candidates have clearance, they will approve, if they do not have clearance, they will be disqualified.

What is coming out of all this is that we are still trying to improve our systems. This is the third round of local government elections and we are still learning from mistakes to make elections free, fair and smooth. 

It is better to learn from our mistakes and improve the systems put in place. It is the LG elections today. It could happen to parliament elections where the stakes are high. 

Meanwhile, a common grievance from aspiring LG candidates is the numerous documents needed to even participate in the Dhamngoi Zomdus. The tshogpa and mangmi candidates, mostly villagers without a tax paying number (TPN) are discouraged to participate because of the number of documents they have to provide to participate.  They see it as harassment when the call is for greater participation in elections at all levels.

What happened to the nine candidates should not be seen as an isolated case. Even if it is, it is a good lesson to improve the shortcomings in our systems.