Consulting democracy

The National Assembly has decided to amend the Livestock Act (2001) to remove the ban on the slaughter of animals and the sale of meat during the first and fourth months of our calendar.

I did not support the proposal to amend this Act. I did not support the proposal for a very simple reason – none of us had bothered to consult the monk body. And there are about 15,000 monks. That’s a lot of them. Enough to be taken seriously especially on issues concerning religious matters.

For a vibrant democracy: consult. And consult widely.

Local Government elections – update

His Majesty the King commanded that Local Government elections shall be conducted after the ECB completes the delimitation process and after the relevant acts under which elections are to be held have been revised in accordance with the Constitution.

His Majesty the King commanded that Local Government elections conducted under Acts that had been repealed and which are contrary to the provisions of the Constitution would lake legitimacy even as an interim measure. And that the cost of conducting elections again after a few months would cause financial burden to the exchequer and enormous inconvenience to the general public and the bureaucracy.

The terms of incumbent gups have been extended till the ECB conducts the elections next year.

Unconstitutional elections? – 2

Yesterday the ECB responded to my concerns regarding the legality of the forthcoming Local Government elections. (see my blog on 29 November)

The ECB explained that the Local Government elections should go ahead, as an “interim measure”, in accordance with MOHCA’s order to elect Gups where the tenure of the incumbents has expired.

I will object to the elections for several reasons:

First and foremost the elections will be unconstitutional. The Constitution puts the responsibility of conducting elections (NA, NC, Local Government and National Referendum) squarely on ECB. Allowing MOHCA to order elections, for whatever reason, is a constitutional breach;

Second, all elections must be conducted according to the provisions of the Election Act which was approved by both Houses and submitted to His Majesty the King during the first session of the Parliament; and

Third, the Local Government Act came into force in July 2007 and will remain in effect till modified by Parliament. Local Government elections cannot, therefore, be held in accordance with the earlier DYT Chathrim.

I appreciate the constraints that the ECB faces. It must, for instance, finalise the electoral boundaries for the Local Government constituencies before it can conduct the elections according to the electoral laws. But there’s no point in holding elections now, only to repeat the elections in 2009 after completing the delimitations of the Geogs. That would not only be a waste of money. That would be disruptive. And that would be unlawful.

I’ve appealed to ECB to reconsider.

Unconstitutional elections?

I have copies of two letters:

One, by the Election Commission of Bhutan, authorizing the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement “…to issue directives to the relevant authorities to hold elections where the tenure of Local Governments has expired or expiring”.

And two, by the Ministry of Home Affairs informing all 20 Dzongdags to conduct elections where the tenure of Local Governments has expired.

Both letters are unconstitutional. The Constitution and the Election Act mandate and require the Election Commission to hold elections for Dzongkhag Tshodus, Gewog Tshogdes and Thromde Tshongdes.

Clearly, the Election Commission is not yet ready to hold Local Government elections. But why authorize other agencies to conduct these elections? And why the urgency if the Election Commission will be, by its own estimates, ready by 2009?

The Election Commission should retract its decision and accelerate its efforts to complete its groundwork for local government elections. In the meantime, any elections to Local Government could be unconstitutional.