Thukten Zangpo

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the Office of Media Arbitrator (OMA) have been actively working to raise awareness and prevent violations of electoral laws. Despite their efforts, there have been numerous complaints against both the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Both the parties have also been discouraging the party members and supporters from violating electoral laws. 

As far as BTP is concerned, a party official said that the party respects electoral laws and condemns the mudslinging game witnessed during the election period. The party, he said, emphasises its commitment to the rule of law and appreciates the ECB’s prompt action in addressing complaints. He also said that the party has been cautious in lodging complaints to avoid creating disharmony in society.

“While there are many issues that have come to our notice, we have carefully studied the merits and repercussions before lodging complaints because the nature of some of the allegations could create disharmony in the society. We have always put the national interest above politics,” the party official said.

He also said that the party has cautioned their supporters and coordinators to adhere to electoral laws and it is the party’s responsibility to refute and defend the stand when charged with numerous baseless allegations such as the party’s president providing mats, which was dismissed by the commission.

“The ECB has acted on every complaint swiftly and has respected their decision instead of challenging them,” he added. 

On the other side, the PDP’s Secretary General, Kuenga Tashi, expressed the party’s dedication to respecting and upholding electoral laws, promoting fairness in campaigns, and preserving democratic values.  

“It’s crucial for all, including our members and supporters, to strictly adhere to these laws. We emphasize compliance with electoral regulations among our candidates and supporters, prioritising lawful conduct,” he added. 

Kuenga Tashi also said that the party believes in the strict enforcement of these laws by the ECB and the OMA is essential. “Our party stands for fairness and integrity in elections, advocating for credibility and transparency throughout the electoral process.”

The ECB has consistently reminded all political parties, candidates, coordinators, and supporters to adhere strictly to the provisions of electoral laws at all times, emphasising the consequences they could face in the event of violations.

According to the Rules on Elections Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan 2022, Section 7.1.1, all political parties and candidates should avoid the use of hate speech, language, or any kind of action that may lead to violence or intimidation, whether to demonstrate party strength, gain any kind of advantage, or any other reason.

Section 4.4 of the ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2018 says parties, candidates, and supporters should avoid communicating, transmitting, or posting hate messages or any content with the intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or political party during the election period.  

Additionally, the Election Conduct Rules state that the political party or candidate contesting the National Assembly Elections, and individual or organisation shall neither serve meals or refreshments nor pay, gift or reward the general public or voters for attendance of election campaigns or produce, wear and distribute T-shirts and or caps, among others.

Financial institutions are required to report abnormal transactions related to political parties or candidates.

In case of violations, the Commission may impose a fine—issue a warning to the concerned party, or impose a fine of the minimum wage for 120 days to any person or entity, other than political party or candidate, or both, issue warning to the concerned party, or impose a fine of the minimum wage for 300 days to a candidate, or both; or issue warning to the concerned party, or impose a fine of the minimum wage for 600 days to a political Party, or both. 

ECB may also suspend any of the penalties with the effect of deferring or not enforcing the penalty on satisfaction of specific conditions.