As the fourth National Assembly elections draw closer, it is time to do some serious planning whether at home to conduct the annual lochoe or conferences, meetings and seminars at work. 

The Election Commission has notified, well in advance, urging everyone to conduct the activities, which involves gathering of people, before October end or push it to until after January 2024. Gatherings are restricted during the election period as it is seen as an unnecessary distraction for election authorities, who are required to focus solely on the proper conduct of the elections.

There is enough time until the ECB calls for the election period, providing more than two months to plan or reschedule activities. Religious events like local tshechus that cannot be rescheduled will go ahead unchanged. 

This is not the first instance of restriction on gatherings during an election period. We should see this rule implemented and adhered to without any complaints.  A more challenging aspect is the call for people to report wrongdoings or violations of the electoral laws by political parties. 

Allegations are already flying that some political parties are on full campaign mode during the familiarisation tours that only allows introducing the party, its visions or missions. Some are accusing parties of making promises and influencing coordinators. However, no formal complaint with evidence was lodged with the ECB who warned political parties of stern penalties if found wrong.

With 15 years of experience under the belt, both political parties and voters should be aware of the rules. Our voters are a lot wiser about their responsibility. Besides turning up to the polls to exercise their rights, it is their responsibility  to openly question political parties or candidates if they are violating electoral laws. For instance, promising freebies or  pledging to blacktop a gewog road is not allowed during familiarisation tours.  

The ECB’s civic and voter education serves as a crucial platform for voters to know their rights and responsibilities. For instance, the ECB will allow a voter with a valid citizenship identity card to vote even if he or she lost the voter photo identity card. 

Voters should also know that the party manifestos would undergo scrutiny, and unrealistic promises would be questioned. Above all, voters should know that a party elected to power through unfair or unlawful means could deceive them too.

The ECB would take action only when backed by evidence. Past experiences have shown that numerous complaints are mere accusations lacking evidence. We are also well aware that accusations and rumours can create division in society.  

Five political parties contesting the Fourth National Assembly elections. The anticipation regarding which three political parties would bow out of the primary round is already building. Sometimes, this excitement can cause rifts and divisions along party lines. 

An election can be fair only if electoral laws are followed.  The true success of an election is when conducted on the premise of truth, unity and harmony.