LG: Incumbent members of the local governments (LG) wishing to re-contest in the upcoming local government elections will be allowed to complete their term, and perhaps even receive retirement benefits.

This has been made possible with the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) pushing the election dates by a month. The second phase of the election will now be held in July, a month after the completion of their term.

The election process will begin in June.

This, Chief Election Officer Phub Dorji said, will leave about 30 days in between the start of the election process and the poll day. “People don’t complain about lack of time if we keep a month for the election process,” he said.

Phub Dorji said though the election Act says that the tenure should be counted from the date of first sitting, the ECB has the authority to make adjustment of some days for convenience. “Some gewogs had slightly early elections while others had a bit latter for various reasons,” he said.

The elections in gewogs, where elections are slated in July, were held in June 2011. The elections will held in all dzongkhags including new thromdes, except for 10 gewogs.

Earlier, the need for the former thrompons and tshogpas of Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu to resign in January had marred the first phase of election. They resigned about a month before the completion of their term, which some  lawmakers said were unconstitutional.

The confusion arose because of inconstancies in the Constitution and the election Act.

Article 22, section 21, of the Constitution prescribes that a local government will continue for five years unless dissolved prematurely. On the other hand, a section of the election Act, which the ECB followed to conduct the thromde elections on January 25, states that a local government should be reconstituted on the date of expiry.

In such a case, should a dispute arise because of such inconsistencies, the provisions of the Constitution will prevail. Any provision of a law that is inconsistent with the Constitution is null and void.

The opposition in an earlier statement also voiced its view on the issue of LG members having to resign before the completion of the term. Opposition Member of Parliament Ugyen Wangdi, citing the Constitution, said unless sooner dissolved, a local government should continue for five years from the date of the first sitting.

“Any member made to resign before five year term shall be unlawful,” he said.

The MP said the elections of the local government will be similar to the election of the National Assembly members. He said a local government should be dissolved and the election process should begin only after its dissolution.

The thrompons and tshogpas missed out on their benefits as provided by the entitlement Act as the Act was implemented for want to its rules and regulations. Had the Act been in force, they would not have got their retirement benefits either because a member of LG has to complete his full term to be eligible for retirement benefits such as gratuity and provident fund (PF).

Meanwhile, although the government has said that the LG members will get their benefits, there is no certainty whether the LG members will get their retirement benefits for their full term or counting only from the day of the implementation of the Act.

No deductions for PF and other benefits have been made from the LG members’ salaries as of now.

MB Subba