The nation will head to the polls on April 20 for the third National Council (NC) elections.
Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) announced the date to put the election process in motion in obedience to the Royal Decree issued yesterday calling elections in pursuance of Section 191 of the Election Act.
Speaking on national television, Chief Election Commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said the election would be conducted as per the electoral laws.
Unlike in the 2013 elections, the incumbent members who wish to re-contest can do so without resigning. Parliament made this possible by amending the NC Act of 2008 in 2014.
This amendment was made to ensure NC’s status as a continuous house.
“An incumbent member wishing to contest the elections shall not be required to resign,” the ECB stated, citing Section 15A and 22A of the NC Act 2014. However, the ECB added that candidates and their representative will be prohibited from using their title, designation, rank, kabney or rachu, pata or geyntag, or any other sign, insignia or symbol of an office held earlier.
The Office of the Returning Officer and venue of the election events shall be, as far as possible, at locations that do not require the wearing of the kabney/rachu and pata/geyntag.
Aspiring candidates should be present at the zomdu at 9am sharp along with a photo measuring 2.3cm x 2.3cm for use on the electronic voting machine.
According to the ECB, those born on or before March 19, 1993 and on or after March 19, 1953 shall be deemed to meet the legal age requirement for candidates.
Voters whose census is registered in a constituency on or before December 31, 2016 will meet the durational requirement to be a voter or candidate from that constituency.
Door-to-door campaign will be allowed only between 6am and 6pm.
A candidate and all concerned will not be allowed to neither serve meals or refreshments, nor are they allowed to pay the general public or voters for attendance during campaigns or produce and distribute things like T-shirts and caps.
Religious events are prohibited, in particular those involving candidates and their representatives and supporters.
ECB has also notified that religious organisations and Civil Society Organisations shall not participate, directly or indirectly, or give grounds to reasonably construe support, opposition or dislike of any candidate contesting the elections.
The commission has prohibited civil servants, except those on election duty, from participating or attending any campaign event or meeting.
Midhey gothrips (local leaders) will not be allowed to participate, directly or indirectly, or give grounds to reasonably construe support, opposition or dislike of any candidate contesting the elections.
No travels or official tours shall be undertaken by a minister or MP to any constituency other than the place of ordinary residence until the completion of election. If such travel to a constituency becomes unavoidable, he or she shall seek permission and report to the returning officer concerned.
ECB will provide Nu 150,000 as public campaign fund for a candidate.
The dzongkhag election office will arrange public debate between the candidates.
Eligible postal voters wishing to exercise their franchise through the Postal Ballot must register with the ECB latest by March 8.
The ECB will use EVM for polling in all demkhongs. A total of 866 polling stations will be set up.
An appeal against a decision of the ECB or an issue related to the Poll Day or the EVM may be lodged to the High Court on or before the last date for filing of an election petition.
April 20 will be a national holiday in all 20 dzongkhags.
“All employers are required by law to grant required number of days as election leave for any voter wishing to go to vote in person,” the ECB notification stated.