Chencho Dema

Wangdue—Both candidates of the  People’s Democratic Party in Wangduephodrang, Kuenga and Tandin Wangchuk were fined for breaching election codes of conduct on Saturday, December 30.

Candidates Tandin Wangchuk of Athang-Thedtsho and Kuenga representing Nyishog-Saephu for PDP were slapped a monetary fine of Nu 37,500 each.

Unlike most cases, there were no complaints lodged against the candidates this time, the District Election Dispute Settlement Body (DEDSB) took up the case on their own after the public debate.

Candidates of both the PDP and BTP constituencies were briefed by the respective election officers and the Dzongkhag Election Officer before the debate about the dos and don’ts during the live debate. They were specifically cautioned not to use inflammatory language, provocative actions, visual displays or manifestos that promote violence, hatred or intimidation towards another candidate, nor should they make defamatory or disparaging remarks about rival candidates.

In addition, candidates were specifically advised not to raise any complaints they may have made as these cases are currently under judicial review (subjudice).

However, during the debate, both PDP candidates brought up the BTP president’s December 18 campaign speech at Ramichen Primary School in Phobjikha. Kuenga had filed the relevant complaint with the DEDSB, which was then under subjudice.

On December 21, Kuenga filed a written complaint to the DEDSB alleging that the BTP president had violated both the Election Act and the ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations 2018.  

According to the decision, both candidates did not follow the instructions of the election officials and national observers during the public debate on December 23 and 24. 

Section 289 of the Election Act of Bhutan 2008, which mandates that “the political parties and candidates, in order to maintain a healthy electoral system and to ensure that election campaigns are carried out in a lawful, peaceful, and orderly manner for a free and fair election, abide by the Election Code of Conduct,” is violated by the candidates, according to the decision.

Additionally, it was found that the candidates had disregarded the 2018 Common Forum Election Campaign Guidelines for Conduct.

If a candidate chooses not to appeal, they must pay the fine within seven days of the ruling being issued.

While the candidates, if not happy with the outcome, they have five days to file an appeal with the Central Election Dispute Settlement Body. 

In a response to the DEDSB on dated December 28, Tandin Wangchuk stated that  main reason why he was compelled to respond to the remarks of the BTP president after filing legal complaint was that despite their complaint to Election Dispute Committee, he continued relentlessly to commit the same violations without any regard for the restraint orders which must have been definitely conveyed to him by the ECB after our complaint.

“For instance, the BTP president repeated the same topic during the Kanglung-Samkhar-Udzorong public debate, just before our debate,” he added. 

Meanwhile candidate Kuenga in his response stated, “On December 23, 2023, during the live debate, the concluding remarks encapsulated the narrative of the Bhutan Tendrel Party’s President addressing the residents of Phobji and Saephu gewog. Recognizing the significance of addressing concerns raised by the community, I deemed it necessary to provide clarification.”

He further stated that it was responsibility to guarantee the dissemination of accurate information. “This involves making necessary clarifications supported by substantive evidence,” he stated in the letter.