Breaking the law?

Aspiring candidates

210 candidates have been disqualified from taking part in the local government elections. These candidates, all of whom had been members of a political party, were disqualified as it has not yet been one year since they resigned from their respective political parties.

Actually all of them had resigned from their political parties more than a year ago. All of them were automatically deemed to have resigned as far back as 2008 when they did not renew their memberships with their respective parties.

But Section 206 of the Election Act requires that any resignation or removal from a party “…shall be immediately notified by the concerned party office in the print media with a copy submitted to the Election Commission.” It turns out that both the political parties failed to publish the names of these deregistered members in the print media or to notify the Election Commission as soon as their memberships had expired.

Therefore, the ECB has ruled that the 210 candidates are not eligible to participate in the local government elections. They’ve been disqualified. But they’ve been disqualified through no fault of their own. In fact, the fault – for not announcing their resignations in the print media and for not informing the Election Commission in time – lies with the political parties.

So the ECB should punish the political parties. If electoral laws have been broken, it is because of them, not their ex-members.

And the ECB should allow the 210 candidates to take part in the elections. They have not broken the law.

Photo credit: Kuensel

 

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  1. tangba says:

    But the main cause of this PREVENTABLE CATASTROPHY is the FAILURE OF THE ELECTION COMMISION TO NOTIFY THE POLITICAL PARTIES about this clause in the Election Act AGAIN AND AGAIN until the parties conform to it. I think the Election Commissioner failed miserably to discharge his duty according to section 24.1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan which states…

    “There shall be an Election Commission which shall be responsible for the PREPARATION, maintenance, and periodical
    updating of electoral rolls,the election schedule,and the supervision,direction, control,and conduct of elections to
    Parliament and Local Governments,as well as holding of National Referendums,in a free and fair manner”.

    I think it’s time and reasonable to impeach the election commissioner at the earliest. He is the man who is RESPONSIBLE for all this avoidable chaos.

  2. At the end of the day, the candidates themselves should share the majority of the blame. They are running for the posts of local leaders so they should be proactive and know all the rules and regulations. Yes, the political parties are to be blamed too, but at the end of the they the candidates themselves have the responsibility to make sure that they have done all necessary procedures to get elected.How can they be leaders, if they cannot even complete their nomination process. Like Prime Minsters says about the Tobacco law, it is the law, and they should follow it. Otherwise all the people in the prison should appeal too, saying the law should be bend once just for them.

    I have no sympathy for these people. At the end of the they should stop trying to act all holy by saying they served the nation when the nation needed them. Everyone in the country serves the nation one way or the other, not just them. I have also that majority of these people are responsible for causing a lot of rift and frictions between villagers during our parliamentary elections.

  3. YPenjor says:

    I agree with Truth. There is lapses on the part of the two political parties and the Election Commission. The political parties have not broadcasted and not informed the election commission the resignation of their members. The EC has not spelled out (to certain extend, the EC has clarified publicly teh rules and regulations) the requirement of media announcement and certification from EC for resigning members of a political party.

    But, higher degree of lapses lie with the interested individual candidates. When they have interest to join LG elections, they need to be proactive and mindful of their eligibility. After all, issues of eligibility for poliitcal and apolitical candidates had been publicly discussed prior to the 2008 election for the criteria of MPs and NCs. One prominent example has been the candidature of Achyut Bhandari from Gelephug who appeared for PDP candidate first and later for NC candidate. cal figure In a way, this is a side effect of the spoon-feeding services that our people got so used to.

    On the sidelines, I am confused why Tangba is so against the half-Tangba.

  4. To YPenjor: There is no need to create any more un-necessary confusions. It is not the mistake of the political parties nor the candidates. It is COMPLETELY the failure and incompetency of the Election Commissioner. Let’s get straight to the point.

    Section 24.1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan states: there shall be an Election Commission which shall be responsible for the “PREPARATION, maintenance,and periodical
    updating of electoral rolls, the election schedule,and the supervision,direction, control,and conduct of elections to
    Parliament and Local Governments,as well as holding of National Referendums,in a free and fair manner.

    If the Election Commissioner had given more heed to this clause in our Constitution, he should have taken adequate steps and measures to inform VERY CLEARLY AND REPEATEDLY to the politicial parties, the ex-members and all the citizenry of the country who may be interested to contest in the LG elections through various public medias, circulars, notifications and organising seminars throughout the country right from the beginning when he knew that the LG elections must be held. If he was a little more foresighted and did his homework well in advance, these things would never have happened. The cost of educating the people and informing the future leaders is much lower than the price we pay when our democracy fails. He should have known that. And he should have taken proper measures not to let this happen. But it happened!! He should be penalised for not being competent enough to fulfil his obligations as the Election Commissioner. He should be held responsible for causing this preventable disaster which is destroying our democracy.
    Cheers.

  5. Karma 1 says:

    I agree with OL. It is the failure on the part of the political parties and the ECB.

    1. Political parties failed to announce the names of all members who resigned in the print media. I think this happened because of their financial problem. I believe it’s very, very expensive to print such long lists (running into several pages) in the newspapers. It costs hundreds of thousand of Nu.

    2. ECB failed to create awareness about the requirement of the one year cooling period. They have ECB officers in all Dzongkhags and they could have easily informed the general public in all Dzongkhags and Gewogs.

    3. ECB also failed to decide and announce the election dates enough in advance. Ideally they should have given enough time for the aspiring candidates to prepare for this important election. Beside the resignation letters from political parties, they have to obtain so many other documents within a short period of time. This caused a lot of unnecessary stress and expenditure. Nobody was ever certain about when the LG elections were going to happen till about a month ago. Some people also thought that by the time the LG elections took place the cooling period requirement would not be there as the National Assembly deleted that requirement from the Bill. The only thing left was for the NC to discuss and endorse the same.

    4. ECB should have also prepared the Returning Officers (RO) and their teams more carefully. The ROs and their teams blamed the political parties for everything. That’s very unfortunate because people are now going to stay away from the political parties in future and this is going to have a far reaching repercussion. For democracy to be successful, we need political parties and politicians. And if people at the grassroots avoid political parties, then in the long run, it will not be good for the future of our democracy.

    We also need to understand that the Local Government is the main foundation of our democracy and we need good and effective leaders there. Most capable people in 20 Dzongkhags and 205 Gewogs joined either PDP or DPT. Now if we disqualify them to participate in this election, we’ll not have capable leaders in our future Local Governments.

    Another important problem with the political parties and the ECB is that they hardly meet or communicate with each other. ECB should be more proactive and have more meetings and engagement with the political parties. After the 2008 elections, I believe they only met once.

    In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the political parties and the ECB are to be blamed for this mess. The constitutional rights of former DPT & PDP members to participate in the electoral process should not be taken away from them for no fault of theirs.

  6. Sometimes, I fail to understand why we are so caught up in this ‘blame game’ business. Agreed that the political parties have not done what they were supposed to do; agreed that the ECB could have done more of awareness raising…but the bottomline is as a citizen, someone aspiring to be a elected representative of the local government, wouldn’t it be their responsibility equally and even more to ensure that they understand the eligibility criteria which was made available publicly. Ask not what your government can do for you, but ask what you can do for your Government. We need to change our mentality and stop this blame game!

  7. lobaychenbo says:

    the house of democracy must listen to the voice of the people rather than acting bluntly and autocratically. if people in the highly educated parliament and in thimphu with access to all forms of media can blunder, these party workers are just ‘functionally literate.’ ECB feels that when the govt of the day and other organizations cooperate with them they are undermining the people with good intent, i.e. who are cooperating to make democracy succeed as per the wishes of our kings. so dear Dasho Kuenzang, please, please, please hear the people’s voices. And who is saying about impeachment, let us not go to that extent, pray such a thing never happen in our country. let all people who worked selflessly for the country exit dignifiedly and honorably. please don’t write before giving a second thought.

  8. raw 000 says:

    Law is law. simple answer is follow the law.

  9. Straight drive says:

    Honourable OL,
    I beg to differ you on this issue. Though many aspirant candidates are not eligible to contest and this may lead to inadequacies in this election, it is far more better for Bhutan than bending the Law of Land. This problem is only for one election. But if we bend the Law, it will set a precedence for future. Every one wanting to bend the Law will just code this event in future as example.

    From the ruling on Tobacco Ban, it has become increasingly clear that not being aware of law cannot be used as excuse. And more over Election Act came much earlier than the Tobacco Act.

    So I urge your honour to retract your statement and support the election commission as you have done with that still controversial CDG.

  10. YPenjor says:

    The barred candidates are mostly from the consituencies where there are other candidates who are fulfilling the eligibility criteria. Bending the Election Act and allowing these barred candidates would mean unfair favoritism against the eligible candidates. Another angle of problem is clearly visible.

    Therefore, for the 24 May election, the opportunity should be for the candidates who fulfills the instant eligibility criteria. Should there be any LG constituencies without a single candidate, second election day could be considered once the party workers eligibility time comes in. Until then, an officiating Gup or Mangmi or Tshogpa could undertake the responsibility in the vacant LG constituency.

    Let us not favor people who are barred by the Law of the land and harm the eligible lot…..the Election Commission’s decision on this issue is fully respected!

  11. 0bserver says:

    All in all, if both the parties, ECB and those who what to contest for LG election failed to inform or to be informed, then who is responsible for it?
    As simple as is it, the LAW says that Parties should broadcast in media the registered and resigned members. ECB should update the electoral rolls periodically and interested contestants should read and fulfill the mentioned criteria for LG election. In this case i see non of them had done their work seriously. So all of them have to bear the consequences equally.

  12. Damcho Dorji says:

    Its most unfortunate that this election fiasco has taken place at a time when we are about to have the first LG election in the history of our country. There is no doubt whatsoever, that the Election Act has been violated; and it has been violated by everybody: the Political Parties, the ECB and the Candidates.

    However, we need to see it in the light of the following events:

    1. The issue of cooling period was hotly debated in the Parliament when it was passed. But ultimately those who thought politics should be above local elections prevailed. The question now is, did it?

    2. Hardly one year after the Election Act was passed by Parliament, the National Assembly again sought to amend it in its Sixth Session. It was passed by the NA and is presently before the NC. So what was wrong with it now?

    3. The Constitution does not require this so-called cooling period. But the Election Act does. However, the Constitution does require a one year Mitsi in the Demkhong, both for voters and candidates. So does the Constitution merit equal if not more importance than the Election Act?

    4. The ECB waived this CONSTITUTIONAL requirement during the first Thromday elections but when it came to the cooling period it dug its heels deep.

    5. The ECB contended that the people who didnot fulfil the one year cooling period were not eligible to stand as coandidates. If so, they are still to be considered as members of the party. But they have never renewed their membership since 2008. So can we call them as party members anymore? Whats the objective of imposing a membership fee and renewing membership? If these people are neither party members nor non-party people, then what are they supposed to be? For example: if the ECB tells the parties to submit a list of party members and we submit a list of people who have not renewed their membership, will the ECB accept them as members?

    6. If ECB can question and penzalize people for violating the provisions of the Election Act, can the people question the ECB for violating the provisions of the Constitution?

    7. Last, but not the least when the ECB does not follow the law, can the parties tell the people who are not even their party members to follow the law?

    So many questions, yet so few anmswers.

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