ECB proposes Nu 368M from 250M in 2018 

Dechen Dolkar  

The fourth National Council election next year could be the most expensive, going by the number of aspiring candidates and the budget the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) proposed.

The ECB has proposed a budget of Nu 368.363M for the fourth National Council (NC) elections. This is an increase of 47 percent compared to the previous election in 2018.

In 2018, ECB had earmarked a budget of Nu 250M, which in turn was an increase of 68 percent from 2013. In 2013, Nu 148.5M was spent on the NC elections.

Expenditures include the costs of materials, deployment of human resources for the three-month election period and campaign funds for candidates.

The campaign fund ceiling for each candidate has been revised from Nu 130,000 in 2013 to Nu 150,000. Funds are spent on campaign office spaces, utilities like water, telephone and electricity, hiring vehicles and goods and services for direct campaign purposes.

ECB spent a total of Nu 28.55M on the candidates in the third NC and Nu 18.65M was spent from the state fund as election campaign financing.

From 52  contestants in the first NC elections in 2008, the number of candidates increased to 67 in 2013 and 127 candidates in 2018.

For the fourth NC elections, about 131 aspiring candidates have registered with ECB so far. There are many who are  planning to contest for NC elections. Many said that they will be registered with the ECB by January and start their campaign.

The Director of Secretariat, also the Spokesperson of ECB, Phub Dorji, said that the budget is proposed based on aspiring candidates contesting from each gewog and from thromdes.

Phub Dorji said that ECB has not revised the campaign funds for candidates and it will be Nu 150,000 for each candidate.

Meanwhile, the  ECB is gearing up for the NC elections with conducting training. Recently the commission conducted training on Bhutan Electoral Registration Management System with all the dzongkhag election officer. The training on Election Dispute Settlement System will be conducted by third week of December.

ECB has also conducted civic and voter education for the fourth Parliamentary Elections at the gewog and chiwog levels in the month of November 2022.

Commission officials said that they will also come up with various awareness materials for the NC elections, which will be released at appropriate time.

With five political parties, the ECB could also see the most expensive Assembly election next year. The commission has not proposed a budget for National Assembly elections as of now.

Currently, with the five political parties registered, there will be 235 candidates for the primary round of elections. Campaign funds alone would cost around Nu 49.3M for the primary and general rounds of elections.