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Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has notified that all media houses should refrain from running any news stories on the National Council (NC) aspirants until the “Application for Election Campaign Fund” is released.

The Application for Election Campaign Fund will be released on March 20, following the scrutiny of nominations of candidates.

Head of the commission’s Department of Election, Sonam Tobgyal, said that the temporary suspension of news coverage was to ensure a level-playing field.

“Given the increased number of aspiring candidates, media cannot give coverage to all of them,” said Sonam Tobgyal.

According to ECB, there are 175 aspirants who have registered with ECB to date.

Sonam Tobgyal said that as per the election regulation, once the election notification has been called, no news coverage on aspirants could be run. “Unfair story coverage might promote some aspirants.”

Releasing of campaign fund is basically a confirmation of nominee from respective gewogs, who will then contest in the election at the dzongkhag level.

Sonam Tobgyal said that once the fund is released, the nominees may choose to familiarise themselves through the media.

Each nominee is entitled Nu 150,000 campaign fund. Only then, the media can also run stories on the nominees.

Attestation

ECB has issued “Letter of Attestation” to 84 NC aspirants. This means the aspirants can file their nomination with the respective Returning Offices (RO).

The filing of nomination can be done with the commencement of the Gewog Dhamngoi Zomdu that will begin February 24 and go on until March 19.

Dhamngoi Zomdus are held to select nominees, and brief the electorates on the election process and procedures.

ECB to date has received Qualification Endorsement of 117 aspirants, of which 84 were issued a letter of attestation. Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC) issues qualification endorsement after verifying the aspirants’ education certificates.

Of the 175 aspirants who have registered with ECB, certificates of more than 58 aspirants are still under BAC’s scrutiny. According to ECB, a formal university degree is required to contest in parliamentary and thrompon elections.

A formal university degree is a degree not lower than a Bachelor’s degree conferred on a person after having pursued a formal course of study at a university or an institution of higher learning recognised by the Government of Bhutan and attested by a competent authority in the Kingdom.

Before issuing letter of attestation, ECB will verify the qualification endorsement to ensure that the aspirants have not produce a fake qualification endorsement.

The election regulations state that a person who has obtained university certificates under mixed mode and part-time studies is ineligible to contest in the elections.

The process of BAC endorsement involves validating the qualification with the awarding institutes. Validation for those who studied in universities abroad takes time.

ECB does not issue the letter of attestation to the aspirants who graduated from religious institutions in the country and abroad. This is in line with the election regulation, which states “religion is above politics.”

The poll day for the National Council elections is on April 20.

Tenzin Namgyel

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