Jigme Wangchuk

On the eve of the poll day, general secretaries of four political parties—Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Bhutan Tendrel Party, and the Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa—have accused the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of claiming Royal Patronage.

The Office of the Media Arbitrator (OMA) has received a complaint from the general secretaries of four political parties concerning a video posted by the president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on November 27, addressing Royal Patronage.

Upon verification, it was noted that the video was edited on the official Facebook Page of PDP. However, the general secretaries of the four parties argue that the original unedited video is circulating on other unregistered social media platforms and personal accounts, creating an uneven playing field on the eve of the primary round poll day.

The older unedited version of the video, found on TikTok and Facebook, has been removed following the intervention by OMA. In the video, PDP’s president, Tshering Tobgay, says: “More importantly, His Majesty The King, concerned about the nation, said that only PDP can serve that nation well.”

The OMA deemed the original unedited video to be in direct violation of Section 15.1 of the Social Media Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2018. This section emphasises the responsibility of the media arbitrator and election observers to ensure a level playing field in advertising, prohibiting any individual or group from gaining an advantage through the propagation of royal patronage, religion, religious personalities, or engaging in personal attacks or hate speech.

In response to the situation, the OMA has directed social media monitors to intensify their surveillance of social media platforms and groups.

Therefore, in accordance with Section 6.8 of the Media Coverage of Elections Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2021, and recognising the limited time before the poll day, the OMA has expedited the matter by forwarding the complaint to the Central Election Dispute Settlement Body of the Election Commission of Bhutan for a thorough review and necessary action.

Media arbitrator, Jigme Wangdi, said that the case has been forwarded to the central election dispute settlement body and is being reviewed.

The central dispute settlement body consists of one of the election commissioner as chairperson, secretary of the Commission, head of department or division concerned of the Commission, and a legal officer.

ECB could not be contacted.