Members of political parties cannot take familiarisation tours to constituencies until the completion of the National Council (NC) election, according to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).

“It is a gentle reminder to all the political parties to immediately stop party related tours and activities undertaken by honourable leaders and candidates in dzongkhags and demkhongs,” states an ECB notification issued to party offices on February 15.

However, head of the ECB’s department of civic and electoral training, Phub Dorji, told Kuensel that political parties could conduct regular intra-party meetings.

Phub Dorji said party related activities couldn’t be allowed to avoid politicisation of the NC election. “But internal party meetings can happen,” he said.

The election period started on February 15 with the ECB announcing the NC poll day on April 20.

Since the announcement of the NC election, most members of political parties on tour have returned to Thimphu from their familiarisation tours.

Members of political parties and candidates said that due to the ongoing activities for the NC elections, they have stopped constituency-centric activities.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa general secretary Tenzin Lekphel said the party head office has informed all its regional offices, candidates and members that they must respect the ECB notification to refrain from political activities as much as possible and to facilitate smooth election.

Secretary general of People’s Democratic Party, Sonam Jatso, and a member of  Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party Karma Jimba also said that they were complying with the notification. Druk Chirwang Tshogpa has not undertaken familiarisation tours.

Phub Tshering, DPT candidate from Lammgong-Wangcha constituency and former Paro Dzongkhag Tshogdu chairperson, said the ECB’s notification was not clear about local leaders’ participation in the election process.

The ECB’s notification states, “ The midhey gothrips shall not participate, directly or indirectly, or give grounds to reasonably construe support, opposition or dislike of any candidate contesting the elections.”

Phub Tshering said that individual local leaders’ right to choose a candidate should be guaranteed.

“The notification states that rituals cannot be conducted specially by the candidate or relatives of the candidate. This could mean that others can. This is not clear,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ECB in its NC election notification has stated that travels or official tours by ministers or MPs will not be allowed to any constituencies other than the place of ordinary residence during the election period except to cast votes on the poll day if he or she decides not to avail the postal ballot facility.

“If such travel to a constituency becomes unavoidable, he or she shall seek permission and first report to the concerned Returning Officer,” the ECB stated.

MB Subba