With just about four months remaining for the election commission to roll out the election schedule for the third National Council (NC), 14 incumbent members have confirmed that they would re-contest in 2018 election.

The election commission will announce the poll date in February 2018.

Four members said they are assessing their chances to take a final call. They are Sangay Khandu from Samtse, Sonam Dorji from Dagana, Tashi Phuntsho from Tashi Yangtse, and Paro’s Kaka Tshering.

Gasa’s Sangay Khandu, and Chairperson (Dr) Sonam Kinga, who is currently attending a parliamentary assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, could not be contacted.

The rest of the members confirmed that they would re-contest. They are of the view that their re-election would not only ensure continuity to the ongoing works, but also retain experience in the House.

Member from Trongsa, Tharchen, said that he decided to re-contest to provide the best option for the voters of his dzongkhag.

He said: “My professional commitment, character and interest blend well with the role of NC as the House of review. With my experience and interactions with my constituents, I am convinced with their support for my service.”

Tsirang’s member Kamal Bahadur Gurung said that the dzongkhag had a high number of aspiring candidates. 

“I have decided to re-contest although we have many aspiring candidates,” he said. Ten aspiring candidates have registered with the election commission from Tsirang.

Member from Thimphu, Nima Gyeltshen, said that he would re-contest to serve the people. He is one of the youngest members in the House currently.

There are six members serving their second term among the elected members. There is no limit on the number of terms a NC member can serve.

The current members’ term of office will be complete on May 9, 2018. However, the election process will begin from February to ensure that the third NC is reconstituted on May 10.

The Parliament made it possible for the incumbent members to re-contest without resigning by amending the NC Act of 2008 in 2014. A provision was added as Section 15(A), which states: “A member of NC intending to participate in the next NC elections shall not be required to resign and may contest while in office.”

This amendment was made to ensure NC’s status as a continuous House.

In 2013, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) made it mandatory for members who wanted to re-contest to resign before the completion of their tenure. Members then had argued that forcing them to resign before completion of the term would break the continuity of the House.

A total of 128 aspiring NC candidates from across 20 dzongkhags have registered with the commission for seminars, according to ECB.  Seven of them, which is 5.4 percent of the total, are women.

Dzongkhag-wise, Dagana saw the highest number of aspiring candidates with 18 having registered with ECB, followed by Monggar 13, and Tsirang 10.

According to ECB, it has already begun its activities for Parliamentary Election 2018 and every dzongkhag has developed individual action plans to increase voter turnout and will implement activities in the coming months.

MB Subba