In a significant development concerning Department of Local Governance’s (DLG) September 12 notification and local government leaders’ entitlement issues that it gave birth to, Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the National Council (NC) have walked in to clarify that members of local governments are declared elected from the day the election results are declared, not from the day they are administered oath or affirmation of office.

What this points to is that DLG’s notification overrides Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2008 and Local Government Members Entitlement Act of Bhutan 2015. It calls for the relevant stakeholders to intercede so that the matter is put to rest once and for all.

According to Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2008, the day election results are declared, it is deemed that a government has been constituted. This means that elected members of the local governments are not required to wait until the oath-taking ceremony to be declared elected, although their five-year term will be counted from the date of their first sitting. And to put the matter in clearer perspective, section 7 of Local Government Members Entitlement Act of Bhutan 2015 says that member shall be entitled to salary, allowances, benefits and other emoluments from the day on which the member is declared elected. In other words, the members of the local governments are eligible to their entitlements from the day of declaration of election results.

There was clearly no space for confusion. Although DLG’s argument is that the notification was issued to harmonise the provisions of various Acts pertaining to the members of local governments, their entitlements and constitution of the local governments, it has only ended up confusing the matter. As views held by many lawmakers, the prevailing laws concerning local governments are clear and the precedent of interpretation and implementation has been established the way it is with the members of National Assembly and National Council.

There is an urgent need to erase confusion between commencement of local government leaders’ five-year tenure and their entitlement to perks after they are elected. We welcome more stakeholder intervention.