Dechen Dolkar 

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has received  nine voluntary resignations from elected members within a year following the implementation of new election conduct rules in the Kingdom of Bhutan in 2022.

These new rules and regulations came into effect on August 29th of the previous year, and within the span of one year, eight local government members and one Member of Parliament (MP) chose to resign from their positions before completing their respective terms. Among the resignees were a former minister, one gup, three mangmis, and four tshogpas.

In August last year, the ECB introduced stringent regulations pertaining to candidates who decide to step down from their elective posts without reasonable justifications before fulfilling their terms.

As per the Rules on Election Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan 2022, any candidate holding an elective office who resigns without a valid reason, as determined by the Commission, will face penalties, including a fine equivalent to the minimum wage for a period of 360 days. Additionally, they may be required to reimburse all state campaign funds allocated for parliamentary elections or local government roles. Furthermore, such candidates will be barred from participating in any future elections.

The rules stipulate that these sanctions will be enforced unless the candidate can substantiate, to the satisfaction of the Commission, that their resignation was indeed justified, taking into consideration all the surrounding circumstances. This includes factors like physical or mental illness or a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the candidate and their affiliated party. Moreover, the candidate must demonstrate that their resignation was in the best interests of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

The Commission will carefully assess whether the resignation met the criteria of being reasonably necessary, and only truly unavoidable circumstances will qualify as such.

In the case of Members of Parliament (MPs), the rules state that if they decide to resign, they must refund the state funding, campaign materials, and the minimum wage rate for one year. This translates to MPs refunding campaign funds of Nu 150,000, campaign material expenses of approximately Nu 100,000, and a minimum wage rate of Nu 45,000.

However, an official from the ECB has revealed that they are currently evaluating the resignation of the former minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi, to ascertain whether the resignation was indeed reasonably necessary.

The former minister tendered his resignation on June 30th of the present year, citing medical reasons as the primary cause for his resignation.