Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC) has to date issued Qualification Endorsement Certificates (QEC) to 185 of the 188 candidates of the four political parties for the third National Assembly elections.

BAC has to date issued QEC to a total of 427 applicants, which includes those for local government elections, National Council and National Assembly elections. “This covers about 98 percent of 188 candidates for four political parties for the third NA elections,” BAC stated in its response to Kuensel.

The status of qualification endorsement from BAC is a prerequisite for political parties while submitting their Letter of Intent (LoI) to contest the primary round of the National Assembly elections, 2018.

In the 2013 elections, the Royal University of Bhutan and BAC had to remain open over the weekend to attend to candidates seeking attestation of their university certificates.

BAC took over the task for recognition of qualifications since December 23, 2015 in line with its mandate outlined in the Tertiary Education Policy, 2010. According to records with BAC, of the 427 applicants, about 172 applicants completed their higher education from the colleges within country and around 255 applicants studied abroad.

BAC is mandated to recognise tertiary education qualifications, which includes all academic qualifications above class 12 plus 2 (Diploma).

“In case the applicant holds more than one qualification, he/she can opt to choose either one or they can choose to do for all,” according to BAC.

According to BAC, the processing time for qualification endorsement is entirely dependent on how prompt the institutions respond to its request to confirm the study details. “It ranges from as quick as three hours to as long as more than six months depending promptness of the institution.”

While BAC has completed the qualification endorsement for most of the 188 candidates for the national assembly elections, processing the documents is not without challenges.

“Getting confirmation from the institutions and sometimes, language is a barrier when we follow up, establishing network with the institutions outside Bhutan and applicants approaching the office with incomplete documents, in which case we cannot accept the application, are among the challenges,” BAC states.


Letter of Intent 

Once the royal decree calling the national assembly elections is issued, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) will issue a notification the next day calling the third Parliamentary Elections 2018, National Assembly.

ECB spokesperson Sonam Tobgay said the issuance of the notification would commence the submission of Letter of Intent (LoI) by registered political parties to contest the primary round.

The LoI confirms the parties’ intention to participate in the Primary Round of elections to the National Assembly, Third Parliamentary Elections 2018 as announced by the ECB.

Sonam Tobgay said the parties would have to submit six documents and annex supporting documents while submitting their LoIs.

All parties would have to submit a tentative list of 47 candidates proposed to be fielded in the General Election along with their security clearance for election, audit clearance and status of qualification endorsement by the Bhutan Accreditation Council.

Parties are also required to submit a Financial Statement as at the end of month preceding the submission of the LoI along with the annual contribution declaration, annual expenses declaration and outstanding liabilities report forms.

The third document is the list of party offices in dzongkhags and details of office bearers followed by a list of registered members by dzongkhag.

The parties are also required to submit the website and all social media accounts/addresses of the party and candidates on the tentative list which shall be used for the elections. A copy of the election manifesto should also be submitted as a separate attachment.

The parties will have to sign an undertaking assuring that all candidates on the tentative list do not hold any office of profit.

The political parties, in accordance with the election Act, are given seven days, starting from the date of issue of notification by the commission, to submit the letter of intent.

Parties say they are prepared to submit the LoI to the commission. Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s (BKP) spokesperson Sonam Tobgay said BKP is prepared and all set to submit the LoI “Once we receive the notification, we will file our papers to the election commission and kick start our party campaign adhering to the electoral laws.”

In the 2013 elections, BKP did not make it through the scrutiny process to contest the primary round, as the party did not have any candidate-designate for both the constituencies of Gasa.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s general secretary Tenzin Lekphel said the party is ready. “All documents are ready and we are waiting for ECB to announce the election dates,” he said.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) general secretary Sangay Phurba said the party is ready to submit the documents. “We are fully prepared,” he said.

People’s Democratic Party’s media spokesperson said the party is ready to submit the letter of intent any day. “As a tendrel, the party signed its letter of intent at Dechenphug lhakhang,” the spokesperson said.

Save for DPT, which is yet to formally announce its 47th candidate for Samtse’s Dophuchen-Tading constituency, all other parties have declared their 47 candidates.

Sonam Pelden