The prospect of becoming an elected local government official for seven aspiring candidates came to an abrupt end. The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) revoking the audit clearance, a mandatory document to contest the election, cut short their chances of contesting.

The candidates who ran from the Integrity House’s pillars to the High Court’s post had given up hope.  Filing a case at the dzongkhag court, as suggested by the High Court where they appealed for intervention, and getting it settled before the LG election in about three weeks is impossible.

Dissatisfied, disgruntled and hopeless with the authorities, the candidates have resigned to the fact that they have missed the chance. There is disappointment and anger too at the way things are unfolding. Convinced that they are innocent until proven guilty, some aspiring candidates have pleaded with authorities that had come in their way, to give them a chance. Some even suggested refunding the cost of the election if they are elected and then found guilty of the charges. Most of the candidates are unaware of what they are accused of.

The aspiring candidates deserve a chance to contest even with a case lodged with the ACC. In one case, an accusation against a candidate was lodged in June 2020, more than a year ago. The ACC had delayed action. The reason given was the shortage of staff at the ACC. Candidates who found out that they are accused of administrative lapses are feeling that ACC not resolving cases on time is a bigger administrative lapse. Administrative lapses are the most common issue across all sectors – gewogs, dzongkhags, agencies and ministries. If the same is applied to civil servants, we would see many forgoing promotions.

 The third LG election is getting more exciting. There are more candidates coming forward in all the 205 gewogs. This is a break away from past experiences where candidates contest on the behest of voters or walk miles to ask people not to vote for them. Knowing the importance of local governance, people are asked to assume leadership as a responsibility. 

A credible leader is the call of the day. If the candidates are embroiled in controversy, they need to be cleared or punished according to laws. Authorities sitting on their case or not even letting the accused know the charges is not helping. What if the candidates are proven innocent after the elections? Who will take responsibility and accountability? 

A bigger problem is the weightage of the complaints filed with authorities. LG elections are apolitical, but we know it is no better than elections involving political parties. Villages and villagers are divided. Quite often, villagers vote not on capability, but on who they like or dislike. Any villager could file a complaint to spoil the chance of a candidate they dislike but wins the nomination or even the election. They know the weakness in the laws. The ongoing case of the seven candidates is a good example. In one case, a gup candidate claimed that he was denied the certificate because a disgruntled voter complained of an old issue that was already resolved.  

The candidates have given up feeling that they have hit the wall. It should not be, what they call, a dead end.  There is still time to give these cases some urgency whether from the ACC or the courts.