… should the Opposition Leader remain in office?

Dechen Dolkar

Members of the National Assembly (NA) will fold their blue scarves, bow to the Golden Throne and exit the August Hall for the last time as the House dissolves on completion of its term today.

The first sitting of the NA of the present government was conducted on October 31, 2018, with the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker, which was considered as first day of their term.

According to Article 19 in the Constitution, whenever the NA is dissolved, the Druk Gyalpo shall appoint an Interim Government to function for a period, which shall not exceed 90 days, to enable the Election Commission to hold free and fair elections.

It also states that the Interim Government shall consist of a Chief Advisor and other Advisors appointed by the Druk Gyalpo within fifteen days after the dissolution of the National Assembly. The Chief Justice of Bhutan shall be appointed as the Chief Advisor.

Which means the cabinet will function until the interim government is appointed.

Upon the appointment of the Interim Government, the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were in office immediately before the NA was dissolved shall resign from office.

However, there is confusion and debate regarding whether the Opposition should also dissolve with the NA, as some say that the cabinet is also part of the parliament, and the opposition should dissolve with the cabinet.

According to a legal expert, with the dissolution of the NA, both the opposition and the government should dissolve. However, the Constitution provides an exception for the government, with a 15-day period at the discretion of the Druk Gyalpo for the appointment of interim government.

”So the appointment of interim government can happen the next day also,” the senior Legal practitioner said.

The Opposition Leader post is not an executive post like the Cabinet, which should dissolve with the NA, added the legal expert.

Article 18 section 5 of the constitution states that the Opposition Party will have the right to oppose the elected government, articulate alternative policy positions and question the Government’s conduct of public business.

The Member of Parliament from Bartsham Shongphu, Passang Dorji (PhD), said that technically, the Opposition will also be dissolved following the dissolution of the NA since both the Government’s and Opposition’s legitimacy is drawn from the National Assembly.

He said that while it is clear when the Government will cease to exist, it remains unclear if Opposition could function until the time the Government is in office.

The MP also said that from the constitutional mandate to perform checks and balances, the Opposition could have the mandate until the Government leaves office. Even otherwise, we have the National Council, which is a continuous House to keep an eye on the possible misuse of power by the Cabinet after the dissolution of the National Assembly,” the MP said.

“We now have the Lhengye Zhungtshog Act defining roles, functions and power of the Government. I think we have adequate legal mechanisms in place to prevent any possible misuse of power by the Government in the period between the dissolution of the National Assembly and the appointment of the Interim Government by His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo”, the MP said.

However, he said that for the checks and balances, as long as the Cabinet remains, the Opposition should also be there.

Meanwhile, he said that for a smooth transition of the government, there is the National Council which is a continuous house, which would ensure the checks and balances of the cabinet.

According to the Lhengye Zhungtshog Act 2021, the cabinet will be dissolved following the completion of the five-year term of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 10(24) of the Constitution.

However, the Act states that the Lhengye Zhungtshog during that period will not be entitled to make any policy decisions or enter into any agreement with foreign Governments or organisations.

However, there is no provision addressing whether the Opposition will dissolve with the NA or with the Cabinet.