NC retracts decision to amend Election Act

The last session will commence on November 15

The incumbent National Council members’ term (NC) will end without them amending the Election Act 2008 despite having passed a resolution earlier to do so. The upcoming 20th session is the last for the members.

Chairman of NC’s legislative committee, Sangay Khandu (Samtse), said that the NC dropped its plan to amend the Act because the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) agreed to address the election related issues through adoption of policies.

“Also, the committee that was assigned to study the Act reported that there was no need to amend it,” he said.

NC’s 16th session had voted to amend the Act in the following session.

The NC wanted the electoral laws to allow voters to exercise their adult franchise from place of residence especially in large population centres to increase voter turnout. The house also wanted campaign banners and door-to-door campaigns to be done away with to reduce election costs.

A member said that the provisions related to the electoral process had to be looked at carefully and comprehensively. “The parliament needs time to amend the election Act,” he said.

Some provisions in the Act were found to be inconsistent with the Constitution during implementation.

The Supreme Court has confirmed the inconsistencies in the election Act. A writ that the Court issued last year in August stated that the provisions of the Act that are inconsistent with the Constitution should be reviewed and harmonised.

For instance, Section 196 of the election Act states the elections for local governments should be held so as to ensure that they are reconstituted by the end of their term. This, the Supreme Court, said contradicts Article 24(5) of the Constitution, which states that local governments should be re-constituted within 90 days after they are dissolved either prematurely or on completion of their term.

The inconsistencies also created confusion for ECB during the second local government elections held last year.

Due to the provisions in the Act that say local government elections should be held not later than 90 days before the expiry of the term, thrompons who wanted to re-contest had to resign before completion of their five-year term. The premature resignation was seen as in violation of the Constitution, which states that local government elections can be held only after the expiry of the five-year term.

National Assembly’s legislative committee chairperson, Ritu Raj Chhetri, said that since there was a need to review the Act comprehensively, the current parliament had no time left to amend the Act. “It will take about three sessions to amend or enact a law,” he said.

Meanwhile, the upcoming session of the National Council’s will focus on deliberating and passing the bills that were passed by the National Assembly in the last session.

The upcoming session will commence from November 15.

Sangay Khandu said that although a tentative agenda has been set, the House may come up with some changes if need be. “We set a tentative agenda for the next session as soon as the last session is over,” he said.

The house of review will begin with deliberations on follow-up reports on the resolutions passed by the earlier sessions. The session will see deliberations on four bills.

They are the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill 2017; the Information, Communications and Media Bill 2016; Multilateral Agreement for the Establishment of an International Think Tank for Landlocked Countries and Audit Bill of Bhutan 2017.

MB Subba

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