Parties can’t pledge beyond the manifesto: ECB

The Election Commission has reminded the two political parties contesting the general round that they are not allowed to make pledges beyond those stated in the party manifestos.

On September 26 evening, the head of election department and spokesperson, Sonam Tobgyal wrote an email to the general secretaries of the two parties asking them to remind their candidates to campaign on what is prescribed in their manifestos. This applies for public debates as well and the commission has asked returning officers to ensure this is implemented.

The issue came up after candidates of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) in the on-going public debates pledged vehicle quota. Some pledged to provide vehicle quota for each household. The debates began on September 24.

On September 25, DNT posted on its official facebook page, its pledge to revamp existing vehicle quota provision for civil servants.

“Instead of the Nu 800,000 blanket ceiling every seven years at touching grade six, civil servants will benefit a raised quota of Nu 1.5M at the completion of first 10 years of service,” the party pledged.

DNT pledges to increase this ceiling to Nu 2M after serving for 10-20 years, Nu 3M between 30 and 40 years and up to Nu 4M for a service term spanning 40 years.

“The same facility will be extended to corporations so log as employees serve for more than 10 years in a particular organisation. That way there will be better retention of experiences in corporations.”

This pledge is however, not stated in the copies of the manifesto that DNT submitted to the election commission along with its letter of intent or those shared with the media.

Sonam Tobgyal said the parties submit their manifestos to the commission to contest an election on the pledges made there. “The electoral platform provided is to contest on what they have stated in the manifestos,” he said.

When the four parties submitted their letter of intent to contest the primaries, only Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had pledged to revise the vehicle quota.

For civil servants, PDP had pledged to raise the vehicle quota from Nu 800,000 to Nu 1.5M and provide one-time vehicle quota of Nu 1.5M to civil servants who are not eligible for vehicle quota.

At the campaign flag off press conference DNT held in Thimphu, the party president Lotay Tshering said that should DNT form the government, it would incorporate some of the good pledges of PDP and Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party.

While an elected government may incorporate pledges of other parties, political parties during the campaign cannot pledge beyond their manifesto.

DPT general secretary Sangay Phurba said that once the manifesto is approved parties have to stick to it.  “The ECB has made clear that making new pledges is not allowed.”

DNT president Lotay Tshering said there has been no clear-cut instruction from ECB until now on inserting new pledges.

“Nowhere in the rule book it says that we are not allowed to add on to our manifesto,” he said. “We have a very clear precedence, going by the 2013 elections, so I thought we keep this vehicle quota system as a surprise, in case we get through the primary round. It was kept as a surprise to cause some excitement.”

Until yesterday, he said, there was no mention and now they hear of this. “So maybe I guess there was some ad hoc commission meeting and decided not to allow us. On this front, ECB should follow through and check every manifesto, national and local and check all the candidates’ talks and see if they are added in their manifestos,” he said. “

Lotay Tshering said the party is serious and passionate about offering family car quota. “But if we are told to remove it, we will follow and abide by the rule. I have no intention to challenge the ECB’s decision even though it is a very ad hoc decision,” he said. “Now the ball is in ECB’s court. ECB should make the things very uniform. If they do not want us to insert anything then they cannot single out on any parties or the car quota.”

Sonam Pelden  

Additional reporting by Younten Tshedup 

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