Funding parties

The ruling party today submitted a motion to amend the Election Act 2008. The motion sailed through the National Assembly, with only two members – both from the opposition party – objecting to it.

The proposed amendment seeks to include a new provision in the Election Act that would permit state funding for political parties.

According to Section 158 of the Election Act:

The income of political parties shall be made up of:

(a) Registration fee;

(b) Membership fees; and

(c) Voluntary Contributions from registered members.

Section 158 was debated extensively during the first session of the Parliament when the Election Act was passed. At that time, the Parliament had resolved that including state funding for political parties would contravene Article 15 Section 4(d) of the Constitution by which:

A political party shall be registered by the Election Commission on its satisfying the qualifications and requirements set out hereinafter, that: … (d) It does not accept money or any assistance other than those contributions made by its registered members, and the amount or value shall be fixed by the Election Commission.

But now the ruling party proposes to insert a new subsection under Section 158 that would allow political parties to receive state funding. According to the new subsection, income of the political parties would include:

(d) Funding from the State to the Ruling Party and the Opposition Party

Another new section proposes to allow the government to decide the amount of funding political parties would receive:

The Ruling Party and the Opposition Party shall receive funding from the State to maintain their party machineries and the amount shall be determined by the Government in consultation with the Election Commission of Bhutan.

State funding for political parties was discussed thoroughly during the first session of the Parliament. And it was deemed unconstitutional. The National Council had ruled that state funding for political parties is unconstitutional. The National Assembly had accepted that state funding is possible only if the Constitution is amended.

The Chief Election Commissioner had categorically stated that:

State support to political parties would contravene Section 4 (d) of Article 15 of the Constitution.

And the Chief Justice of Bhutan had warned that:

State funding of political parties negates the very objective of democratic principles, and therefore the National Assembly resolution will have to be adjudicated to determine its constitutionality.

According to the proposed amendment, only the ruling and opposition parties would be provided state funding. If we allow that, it would become very difficult for new political parties to challenge the existing two parties.

And according to the proposed amendment, the government would hold the authority to determine how much funding to provide. If we allow that, it would become virtually impossible for new political parties to challenge the existing two parties.

But I oppose state funding for political parties, mainly because it would violate the Constitution, both in letter and in spirit.

Yes, our party, the PDP, is in deep financial trouble. And yes, because of that, we may not qualify for the 2013 general elections. But that’s no excuse to disregard the Constitution.

I knew I smelt danger.


Facebook Comments:


  1. Bye Bye Democracy in Bhutan!!

  2. If the country fund the 2 parties, it’ll face financial trouble too. The fund could help the needy or country development – construct roads or housing ….

    What do you think?

  3. should it always have to be the case that the members of the ruling party has to be united when such a move (here amendment of Section 158 of the Election Act) is made in the House? Why is it that our two poor opposition members has to be the ones to uphold the provisions and ideals of Acts and sacred document like the CONSTITUTION always? It just shows that some of the so-called “honorable” members are blindly, irrationally and illogically compelled to follow the voice of few dominant fellows. Are we witness yet another constitutional case?

  4. Is DPT Govt. so stupid or what? The govt. and parliament cannot do everything they want. There are certain things that they cannot do and one of which is state funding of the parties.

    Even if NC and NA passed Election Act with amendment, it will not be lawfull unless Constitution is amended.

    Why did DPT praised so much of Constitution and endorsed the draft Cosntitution if it has problem now? They should have amended it when they had the opportunity. Now, too late.

  5. I don’t want to hear DPT complaining about not having enough money for our people anymore again, they always seems to find money if it is for their own selfish benefits, but when it is for the greater good of the nation, they don’t have money.

    All the MPs benefits, they had money, CDG, they had money, now this, but when civil servants ask for a raise, we don’t have money, we don’t have money for relief fund, we don’t have money so we have to raise taxes, however they had money to satisfy themselves.

  6. they shouldn’t change the Constitution whatever they like.

    the country don’t have enough fund.

  7. Sorry for my typing error, it should be amended the Constitution.

    Should they need Royal Assent when they amended the Constitution. Can anyone tell me?

  8. DPT, use simple formula. if you don’t have money don’t buy things.

    will you support business people when they failed their business.

    OL make DPT people understand this formula.

    all the best.

  9. It will be a terrible mistake if proposed amendment is passed. where is the guarantee that ruling party will not misuse such funds?? After primary round, two winning parties will spend like anything as it will be recovered from state after election…so i am against this proposal….

    But, we must also accept the fact that contributions from three legal sources will not be able to sustain parties….So, instead of just criticizing,we should also look for other possibilities of funding parties!…..Or else again our democracy will be at stake….

    my wild idea is, it may not be necessary to have party offices after the elections.So, no party offices after election and no expenditure!!! Let elected MPs play theie role either as opposition or ruling based on their ideology and promises…Currently, even with just two opposition members, they are playing commendable role probably without any support from their party office….

    Others may also throw your ideas instead of just criticizing!

  10. This issue about the Political Party funding has come before and discussed and here again I would reiterate the following points:

    The idea about the funding of the political parties by the govt. is a GOOD IDEA and must be understood in the long term benefit. We know very well that we are a very small country and we have LESS POPULATION with people who are in a POSITION to PAY. In such a situation if the parties can generate the funds only through memberships, how on Earth will the parties sustain financially? We know that some Parties being supported by the wealthy MONOPOLISTS will be able to make somehow and buy the votes from the poor but this is NOT GOOD for democracy.
    I do not support the idea where a party wins the elections because of the money it has (like in the US elections). This will give way where the rich will buy votes from the poor masses and rule the country and take to nowhere. BUT IF WE HAVE TO THEN GIVE EQUAL PLAYING FIELDS FOR THE PARTIES, THE WAY FORWARD IS TO HAVE SOME STATE FUNDING. By state funding it is ensuring the equal opportunity for all parties so that the people elected will NOT be based on money but capability. There must be ceiling to this money and election campaign should be small and different from other countries. We cannot afford to spend a lot. So the need for state funding is driven by the lack of possibility to raise funds being a small country with low income. This is to ensure the long term sustainability of democracy BUT NOT TO MAKE POLITICIANS GREEDY and HUNGRY FOR MONEY. Being a country that proposes GNH we must act accordingly.

  11. I’m happy that honourable OL is opposing this amendment, as he said it is violating the constitution both in letter and spirit.I wish your success la.. OL has also pointed out the consequences funding the ruling and opposition parties. newer parties never dare stand up and our nation will be headed for authoritarian rule.
    DPT, i have an idea, why dont you use the kickback money u got from Bhutan lottery scam, according to its around 49.78 billion ngultrums??

  12. Let us all hope that the future generations of Bhutan are not impacted by what we decide today. I am sure no one will ever dream of being ruled by parties that are bought by rich people, the people who own the major resources and who will dominate the decision-making. There is chance that those “party members” in such parties who will pump in huge amounts of money to do whatever possible to win the votes. I hope Election Commission in Bhutan is still investing the things that happened during the last elections. The things people have done to win the last elections is still fresh in our memories – mobile phones, cars, mobile phone vouchers, gifts, dinner parties, free transport, school uniforms, promises of helping in businesses, education, etc.Yet nobody has even been honest to tell “Yes I have done it”. What a shame! This is what will happen if the party has to be sustained on memberships funding. There will be few members but surprisingly there will be HUGE MONEY PUMPED IN FROM UNDERGROUND. Since many big hydropower projects are coming up, democracy in Bhutan should be state funded as it is for the state. This is for the long term solution. No state funding will seem to be the right answer but it will have HUGE implications. But modalities and ceiling for funding should be worked out in detail. There should not be grey things. There could be things that the Constitution did no envision, after who drafted were also humans. Did the Election Bill for example have clear clauses on what would be happening if all the seats in the Parliament were won by one party? It was never expected that one Party would just win two seats. So there will be surprises and even Constitution will need to incorporate new things over time as we go along. If not in our time, surely in the times of our grandchildren. Change will come.

  13. Well, basically i am a political person. But i always want to see Bhutan govern by fair and just government. I do not wish to see, even after my death, that Bhutan be governed by money power where few rich will decide the fate of majority poor. To avoid such undesirable scenario, state funding of political party is must. It will create level playing field where all who wish to form party can avail state funding; However, how much to give has to be worked out.


  14. State funding that is being proposed by DPT government will never create level playing field, instead it will create a dictatorship government ruled by one party forever because DPT is saying only the current party will qualify for funding and there won’t be limit on it. First the CDG now this, the only aim of these two moves are for continuing DPT rule forever. Our Majesty did not want this, if he wanted this, he would have never given up his power. Our majesty gifted the people of Bhutan to rule ourselves, not to be ruled by one party dictatorship.

    Although state funding is bad, if they propose a fair deal, I might be tempted to sopport it. A fair deal would be any new party will qualify for funding and there should be a limit put on it.

    As far as big business having influence over ruling governments, lets not kid ourselves, even if we have state funding it will never stop. look at all the most developed nations where democracy has been flourishing for decades, even they cannot prevent it. It is human nature no one will ever be able to stop it as along as human are incharge of things. South Asian countries are known to be one of the most corrupted region in the world. At the end of the day, the good thing with democracy is a person with billions of ngultrum gets to vote once, just like a person with one ngultrum. Everyone gets to vote. It is not like big business gets to vote according to their wealth.

  15. State funding is needed so that people will not give money and buy the government. I think it is not yet decided what will be the modality of state funding and no press release has been issued to prove that DPT govt. will be only eligible for the state funding. People are just sharing their own views to let others perceive that the present govt. is going in the wrong direction. I am for the party that does things that will benefit the future generations and state funding is one with a vision to ensure the good foundations of democracy. The need for state funding is proven by the fact that both the parties are financially in bad conditions. If those parties close down, then are we going to have parties formed by the landlords? I had expected that at least in this case even the Opposition members would support the case. How the Parties stand for the case sends a clear message to all of us what their long term vision is and what their values and principles are and so shall the voters decide in the Voting compartment.

  16. Big business will always have influence on the government no matter what. It would be naive to think that just because of state funding they ‘waon’t have influence over the government.
    For example, big business can always shower the MPs with gifts after they are elected, tell us how state funding is going to stop that.
    Even before the election, big business had big influence on our government. Otherwise how would you explain few select people owning the quarter of country’s wealth, how some people can get license for everything. That was before democracy. Now tell us, if they had influence like that even before democracy, how state funding is going to help that. It is human nature, and as long as humans are incharge, there will always be problem of nepotism, corruption, and big business will always have influence.
    The ruling government in a way has itself to blame because if they were not selfish and greedy with all their benefits, people would have been more generous to them and donated more money to the party. Also we are wasting hundreds of millions on CDGs every year, and yet we don’t have money for relief fund.

  17. Linda Wangmo says

    I smell Danger too, 50000000 Volts danger. State funding for both the party would mean gearing up for 2013. If the present government wants state funding than I guess all members and the government including the opposition should dissolved and welcome fresh parties, Consult with our Kings and make necessary changes in the constitution…. Than maybe they can add possibility of funds.

  18. Constitution may be a guide to steer the path of democracy; but it is not a precondition for a democracy to function as we know that mother of democracy can very well function without constitution. Peace loving people would not like to see chaos in the system; i am sure we want things to function as per the changing circumstances and accordingly we have to adjust to changing circumstances.

    Perhaps, the writers of so-called constitution of Bhutan might have overlooked the dynamics of a system, and we should forgive them for their imperfection. What we need to do is adjust constitution or whatever to cope with the changing situation, if the intention for the need to change is for overall wellbeing of the people and the country.

    Summing up my thought, i would like to stress that one should not find excuse in constitution for reluctance to improve the system, if there is an overwhelming imperatives to change or improve; after-all, no laws, however, sacred they are, are immutable. Nothing is fixed in a literal sense of fixation theory; everything changes, even the physical universe with its arrays of stars and planet that changes continuously.


  19. I strongly feel state funding is must unless you want our politicians to be puppets in the hands of the rich and powerful. I really can’t understand why OL is against party funding.
    I hope the rumors that PDP has excess money and that the loan is only a cover up, is not true. If you think your party does not have a chance in 2013 based on the results of the 2008 elections, that is not a good reason to be selfish to the other upcoming parties. OL, please stop being bitter about your loss and think about the larger interest of country for once.

    How can we even expect to see a successful democracy with parties being funded by a few individuals and frankly speaking, Bhutanese don’t have that much money to contribute so are we going to allow foreigners to control our parties and slowly our country? What use will the constitution be then, it will be too late. It’s not just about keeping parties
    alive but also about keeping Bhutan’s sovereignty.

  20. Dear OL,

    Agreed, that state funding should not be allowed. But, how do you propose that the two parties pay their hefty loans.

  21. i m happy 2 know dat 2 opposition members did not support the sate funding for political parties as it is against the constitution.The mother for all laws.But regarding that CDG i have a question.Why the opposition party did not oppose CDG?IN my opinion CDG violates the provision of our Constitution but the opposition party,instead of opposing it they even spend the money.

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