The Election Commission of Bhutan’s decision to refuse registration of Druk Kuenphen Tshogpa has set the bar high for aspiring political parties.
In vetting the aspiring party for its capabilities in terms of leadership, competence and readiness to participate in the country’s democratic process, the commission’s candid observation has shown that forming a political party is a serious and a sacred responsibility.
It showed that to be part of the political apparatus, aspiration alone might not be enough and reminded other aspiring groups and political parties that the process of organising a political party involves going beyond the hype and realm of social media. Heeding to the national call means forming political parties that are as inclusive and as diverse as the society.
As a constitutional body that overseas the electoral process, the commission’s actions must be democratic. It expressed this by informing the people so that they could take informed decisions.
An important factor that the commission pointed out, which should resonate with all political parties as well as other institutions is the critical need for intra-party governance and democratic practices. It cannot be ruled out that political parties professing democratic actions externally by pursuing for instance, its pledges or goals, legally may be functioning internally as a dictatorship. If a party or an aspiring party functions undemocratically, its competence in national governance must be questioned.
We have had instances of registered parties indulging in acts that could be construed as undemocratic. In one case, a member of the ruling party was not informed or left out from a meeting that was called before a plenary session where the National Assembly’s agenda was to be discussed. Whether this was deliberate or an oversight, the commission’s observation should remind our elected politicians that each of them represents the electorate and such acts could be perceived as disrespecting the people if not undemocratic. The right to information and transparency on party’s stand for its members should be an essential internal democratic feature of political parties.
The commission’s decision shows that it has kept people at the center while assessing the party’s documents. This is an important basis because the process of forming a political party to its registration to election and even dissolution concerns public sentiments. We have seen this sentiment being exploited during campaigns, both at home and abroad.
While the commission may have taken an informed decision, the people must also appreciate that the emergence of new political parties imply a political expression from those who may feel that the dominant parties aren’t inclusive enough. Their formation indicates democracy as much as their disqualification. While the decision of the commission is final and binding, it must take feedback from the applicants constructively. The issue of miscommunication or alleged delay in informing the parties about inconsistencies in its documents must be settled.
At the same time, aspiring politicians must take their decision to form political parties as a grave responsibility. We must understand that it is democracy that facilitates the formation and dissolution of political parties. The call for national governance must not be taken lightly.