Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

About seven aspiring local government (LG) candidates in Wangdue have been disqualified from participating in the upcoming election because they are registered as members of current political parties.

Section 33 of the Local Government Act states that a candidate or an elected member of a local government shall not belong to any political party. “A member must resign if he becomes a member of a political party and a copy of his resignation letter from the political party shall be submitted to the election commission.”

This has left many aspiring candidates upset and disappointed.

An aspiring candidate said that he found out he was still registered with a party when he checked online at the dzongkhag election office.

“I was compiling the documents required to contest for the election,” he said.

The candidates said they did not expect to still be registered with a party.

An aspiring candidate said that since he was inactive and did not participate in any party activities, he did not expect to still be registered with the party.

“I didn’t pay the fee, either. I thought that being inactive by not paying the fee would automatically deregister me,” the candidate said.

However, the Election Commission of Bhutan requires that a party member submit a letter to ECB, issued by the party and confirming their deregistration.

An aspiring candidate deregistered his membership, but a one-year cooling period after deregistration still barred him from participating.

“We wanted to give the people more choices, and with the recent discussion of gewog merger plans, this could be our last chance,” he said.

Another aspiring candidate said that parties should at least send a reminder to the party members about their membership, and party coordinators should deregister them.

He said that after elections, communication between members and party officials broke down. “None of them respond to us. They could at least speak to us and give us a solution instead of completely ignoring us.”

Disqualification due to affiliation to a party is expected to increase in the coming days as nominations continue.

“We hope that more people are aware of this issue. There are many who are still unaware of this condition that can disqualify potential candidates,” a candidate said.

A membership list published by the ECB showed that the number of people affiliated with political parties is significantly larger than in past LG elections.

Nearly 12,000 people are affiliated with the four political parties this time. In the 2016 LG elections, only 871 people were registered with parties.

Edited by Tashi Dema