No. No. No.

Is it legal? Is it logical? Is it needed? Three questions that we, members of Parliament, should ask ourselves today when we talk about state funding for political parties during the joint sitting.

Is state funding for political parties legal? No.

Article 15 Section 4(d) of the Constitution clearly forbids political parties from accepting “… money or any assistance other than those contributions made by its registered members”. That’s why the National Assembly decided almost 4 years ago that state funding for political parties would be unconstitutional. That’s why the Election Commission of Bhutan has called state funding for political parties illegal. And that’s why the Chief Justice of Bhutan has declared that state funding for political parties would go against the “spirit of the Constitution”.

Is state funding for political parties logical? No.

A political party, by definition, is a group of people who share the same ideas on how our country should be governed. These people work together to advance their political beliefs by securing the right to make laws, determine policies, and to run our government.

A political party, therefore, needs people. It needs people to support its ideas. And it needs people to finance the party machinery to advance those ideas. So if a party, any party, cannot draw enough people to support it, that party cannot claim to be a true political party.

You may agree with the ideas of a political party. Or you may not. If you do, you may wish to support that party, you may wish to become a member of that party, and you may wish to contribute financially to that party. But if you don’t agree to those ideas, you may wish to support an alternate political party. Or you may wish to stay neutral.

That decision is yours. That decision is your right. You may chose to support one party, or another, or you may chose to stay neutral. I repeat: that decision is your right. And what state funding for political parties threatens to do is infringe on that right. State funding would mean that your tax money will go to support all political parties; whether or not you want to support them, whether or not you agree with their ideas, your tax money will go towards propping them up.

To make matters worse, state funding for political parties would short-circuit the important relationship between political parties and the people. On the one hand, state funding would permit a political party to exist even if its ideas are not generally supported. On the other hand, state funding would mean that a political party does not have to be accountable to people. Instead that political party would essentially become, and should be required to operate as, a government department!

Is state funding for political parties needed? No.

Political parties are vital for democracy, any democracy. And in most democratic countries, political parties play an active role in almost all spheres of life.

Political parties are essential for our democracy too. But our democracy, as defined by the Constitution, purposely limits the scope and role of political parties. That’s why the National Council is nonpartisan; its members cannot belong to a political party. That’s why local governments are nonpartisan; members of dzongkhag, gewog and thromde governments cannot belong to a political party. That’s why civil servants are apolitical. That’s why members of religious organisations and the armed forces cannot belong to a political party. And that’s why only two parties can be represented in the National Assembly at any given time.

All this seems to have been done on purpose, to limit the role and scope of political parties in Bhutan. Why? I don’t know. But I am sure that the drafters of our Constitution knew what they were doing, and what they did, they did for the best interests of the country and the people.

Perhaps they wanted to prevent partisan politics from dividing our small, tight-knit society. Perhaps they wanted to prevent divisive politics from dominating life in our rural communities. Perhaps they wanted to allow the general public to be able to have trust and confidence in local governments and the civil service regardless of which party comes to power. Perhaps they didn’t want political parties to become too powerful. I don’t know.

What I do know is that, because of the Constitution’s provisions, political parties have very little work between elections. As such political parties don’t need offices throughout the country. Yes, political parties must remain accessible to the people, but they must not risk interfering in the business of local government or in the work of the executive. That’s why political parties do not need to maintain – they should not maintain – a strong presence in the gewogs or in the dzongkhags.

All this means that political parties do not really need that much money. Income from registration fees, membership fees and voluntary contributions should be more than enough to support the operations of the party, as long as the party has dedicated members, and as long as the party lives within its means.

Is state funding legal? No.
Is it logical? No.
Is it needed? No.

 

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Comments

  1. Nothing can be justified at this point of time. If going by the same logic..a day will come where party will be supported by the rich people and party for sure will forget the rural folks who cannot contribute and will be the victim of Vote Banks.

    May be time will tell us more

  2. you are spot on..it’s wrong whichever way you look at it, or however jthinley & yzimba put it (i watched bbs footage on this..young sonam kinga made old man yzimba look amateur & naive! also, sonam kinga’s piece in kuensel was convincing; pm jthinley’s writeup looked like a school essay!!).
    personally, i believe our politicians seek office not for king, country or people, but for their personal interests..it’s obvious the way they always look to enhance their pay & entitlements..they choose to join a political party as a career..now, if taxes & public monies are used to fund this political party, all citizens & even businesses should also be supported by state funding to run their personal & business expenses..
    it is so easy to be lavish & generous when the money is not your own..jigmi thinley, yeshey zimba, et al are so used to this & expect the state to fund their ambitions..before they make a stand on issues such as this, they should do some soul searching & ask themselves if they are living up the oath they’ve taken in our kings presence..

  3. State funding or not, I am not sure. But one thing for sure is that PM and Dy.PM are not fighting for the state funding for themselves. They see merit in this and hence their fight to make it happen. They will be retiring soon and why would they urge this when it is not going to benefit them.It is to save our country in the near future from politics going astray when politicians are owned by the rich. I too watched the debate, the oldies like Dy.PM and all made lots of sense and were genuine in their plea for state funding. The young MPs or NCs were convinced that state funding is no good….I just wished they reasoned it out themselves and saw the merit in this. My reasoning here is from the debate I watched on BBS that day and not out of my understanding for the constitution.

  4. I wonder what kind of an article Sonam Kinga wrote to make the one written by the PM look amateurish. My take is completely different, as far as I am concerned, Sonam Kinga is one MP who is too full of himself and thinks he knows more than anyone else about every thing. Many a times it has been not a little painful for me personally to watch his diatribe on live TV.

  5. Thinly n zimba will be gone n only fools like s kings will regret for being shortsighted!…which party should get, when what amount r things that need to sorted out but certainly state funding is necessary…ours is unique based on our condition n that’s why candidates get campaign fund as well which is normally not there in other countries…so providing state fund is totally logical considering small size population n most who can afford to contribute are civil servants…

    Constitutional or not is individual interpretation…the funny thing is NC objected long back and again they seem to be doing study! Won’t there be conflict of interest as they already have stand that it is unconstitutional….if gov does study I am sure the result will be other one…anyway , should ve been done by some neural body….like it or not, NC is not neutral-at least this first batch….

  6. State funding for political parties! forget it (political parties) for following reasons and use your expereince and head too.

    1.How can public resources be used for the few selfish and self motivated political parties. (funding for campaign and other entitlements for MPs itself is too much for this tiny Bhutan. don’t rob further)

    2.Don’t try to brain wash all the Bhutanese by stressing concerns beyond 2013. (why too concern when it is nearing and don’t you think this country need to move further than that)

    3.If every thing is provided by Govt. there is no need of democracy. (if political parties are willing to serve the king,country and people, they should bear some burdens, how can it be easy going)

    this is a piece of concern la. at times we feel DEMOCRACY IS TOO EXPENSIVE for Bhutan. Political parties may come and go but think about limited resources we got. further some justifications given by our well respected and expereince leaders are not justifiable and at times useless in aspect of GNH.

    any way it was wise decision made by parliament when it comes to election amendment bill.

  7. My personal opinion is that, given the amount of debt the two political parties are in from the previous elections, state funding is the only way forward if we do want democracy to thrive. The only thing that is required to be done is to see that the funds are not misused.

    The elected government should either ask for a vote for state funding in a joint sitting of the parliament or have a nation wide referendum on this issue.

  8. I support of lekey, bumtaps,pazaap ang guardian. ol n NC members seem to oppose for the sake of opposing DPT.just yesterday before joint sitting NC uplifted tobacco ban, but then all of them reversed their decision in joint sitting. this shows the true picture of themselves………….

  9. tshering wangdi says:

    Absence of State Funding will not enable the rich section of our society to run the government. A political party should never be formed if it thinks it can not sustain by itself.

    State funding of political parties will:

    1. create many posts which will be entitled to pay more than requisite. eg- at present political appointees to Prime Minister’s office are paid minimum of 50,000 irrespective of their age/experiences. political appointees all over the country would mean…???

    2. relatives of the politician will not be affected with unemployment problem since they will be easy absorbed to the well of political appointees.

    3. lastly but not the least, PM’s comment “if there is no state funding, government will be driven by rich people” is baseless. votes are won by people’s trust on the party not by money. even if a rich company fiance a party which is ultimately voted to power. then what? if the government favours the party, i don’t think media, opposition party and many other sections of the society will remain quite. there is transparency till the end..STATE FUNDING IS CRIME.

  10. apnakutashi says:

    OL, congrats for this very short-sighted victory in stalling the sate funding. You, of al the people, will be the first one to regret along with your buddies in the NC. The DPT has nothing to lose whereas the status of PDP is unclear and there are no other parties in sight. Perhaps, the EC and other institutions, have managed to effectively prevent the growth of a vibrant democracy. Time will tell and history will judge the merit of this event.

  11. It looks like lots of people have drank DPT’s koolaid.
    Did you all even bother to go through the report, The debt of the parties were due to misuse of funds, it says most of the debt are balance brought forward and hospitality and entertainment expenses. Why should the government fund political parties to party, o pun intended.

  12. truth,

    Haha, how do you go on a campaign without providing hospitality and entertainment.

  13. Guardian, the election commission already gives 1,00,000 ngultrum per candidate to campaign during election period.

  14. tormai-nyaro says:

    if the two parties are indebted with loans, let them die their natural deaths. Many of you who are there making noises can form parties and come to govern the country. But according to the reports, dpt earned some 4.8 millions in 2010 and that does not look a small sum to me.

  15. only when country is run by rich people n all policies directed to their favour, these dung headed people will come to sense!….nobody is talking about clearing dpt or pdp debt, it is all about running their offices n other party machineries which r necessary 4 democracy to survive…it can be accountable n monitor by independent bodies like acc, raa, ecb etc…..no where in the world, mps contribute their salary to party …. it won’t be very far when mps n rich people work together n share our resources…..

  16. It is good that state funding is stalled. but people are still unhappy who are died hard of DPT.Supporter of DPT see that 4.8 million collection was gone in the air. Not account in the books of account but merely used for caliming TDS certificate for filing PIT. Are they really caring for the people.

  17. Jarodongchen says:

    Your Excellency,

    Who says Bhutanese people are new to politics? How the DPT lot deftly steered the whole bunch of NC’s and the Opposition party into doing exactly what they wanted them to do with regard to the state funding tamasha tells me that we have politics in our blood.

    The master stroke was when the election bill was withdrawn – at the last moment, allowing no room for further discussion on the matter. What a move! DPT leadership, hats off to you. Way to go!

    Sonam Kinga, you have been had! Time to grow up and eat humble pie.

  18. A lot of people feels that the state finding for the political parties is not constitutional but the constitution does not specify whether it is or not. As some one pointed out, I also think that Dr. Sonam Kinga whom a lot of people gossip about his ambitious political power will definately regret for objecting for the state funding. Once he forms or joins a political party, he will have to take back his words and say the the state should now start funding the political parties.

    Yes, I think certain amount should be used to fund the parties to keep democracy alive. Otherwise democracy will fail and thus failing the gift given by our beloved monarchs. Pelden Drukpa Gyalo.

  19. truth,

    Then it is very obvious that an amount of Nu.100,000/- is just not enough, especially when taking into account the fact that everything has become much more expensive in the last few years.

  20. i can tell says:

    Guardian and others who is supporting the State Funding.
    The very first thing, i have been following this guardian’s comments for last so many updates he made and could understand only one thing, he is there for no good beside giving some justification for all PM ond other DPT members misdeed. Guardian, do you really mean all these what ever you are saying has the substances and claiming to be so knowledgeable then why dont you stand
    as govt. consultant. You know deep in you that all is wrong stil you are in your own way of defending, no offence……
    And please do not say that everything has become much more expensive, do you know who have fueled this hike………. its your DPT.

    Apnakutashi, your name says everything. Wht do you know about funding, as some one clearly mentioned, will they bail us out when our gas doesnt burn at home……
    so why do State Fund, if all these elected ministers really want to bail them out from this funding issue and wants to serve the King, country and the People, they have enough resources to finance themselves for next couple of decades. you got i mean, they
    have enough but they dont want to blow their own resources for country’s good. so Why do govt. need to Fund them…..

    ALL i want to say, please fund those poor souls in the village level, who has mortgaged their bagor and bulls to the institutions for just Nu. 5000/-

    And please be informed when i wrote above doesnt mean that i am poor soul.

    Thanks
    Its their party

  21. I can tell,

    Please get your facts right, whatever I have written previously has been written with some justification. Your post on the other hand makes absolutely no sense. How on earth can you blame the DPT for the increase of prices in Bhutan, if you used your common sense, it would tell you that the price rise here is owing to inflation in India from which we import 90% of our goods. Put in other words, whatever effects India effects us equally or even more. Even if the PDP were in power, the party, I presume, you support, we would have been grappling with this same problem. And since you are the one who is blaming the DPT for making things more expensive, tell us why and how, you just can’t get away with just saying that they are responsible for it. I just hope that I don’t get some gibberish as an answer from you.

    In regard to party funding, the problem is, that, while most of the MPs and Ministers may be rich, the ECB does not allow them to use their own money for campaigning purposes and there is a valid reason for having such a rule in place. If I am correct, they are allowed to contribute only a capped amount for campaigning purposes.

    Next time, kindly, don’t jump the gun, if you are not sure of what you are writing.

  22. Your Execellency, with due respects I beg to differ. It is legal and it logical – to be applied in small country like ours. Otherwise, like the stories of multinational companies being more powerful than the nations, so would some similar companies could control the country.

    And it is truly not unconstitutional, the constitution states and can be intrepreted.

  23. Next time, government should ve new strategy to get things done-if they support some issue, initially they should pretend as if they r against it coz opposition n NC will always go against whatever gov says. If I am wrong,just go through from 1st to 8 session…maybe NC should be renamed as national opposition council!

  24. i can tell says:

    Guardian, if our economy is to rely on Indian Economy, why do we talk and plan for our economy. Just seat idle and the indian Think Tank will solve the work for us.
    If your say is the case that i need to browse my head for, then i do not at all agree with you. Then someday, every economy shall be pointing others for the inflations in their economy. do you get what i mean, i shall explain you in these way, now we import our 90% of commodities for our living from India (as you said), are you aware that India imports 67% of their consumptions from Other countries. So is India pointing finger at other nation for Inflation. Any Govt. elected in any part of the world is always responsible for any happenings in their country, so we have no right to say this is because of the inflation in India.

    And please stop being irony as you are saying that MP and Ministers may be rich, They are the richest in our economy.
    For financing their party, if they are serious and would like to bail them out from these debt, i am very confident that our ECB will never have problem, if one among those rich minister come out in the media and say that he want to give monetary help to his own party to bail the party out from these debt issue. The debt is not as huge that they need govt’s support, its not more then 18 million. This is possible and it shall bring no controversies if they do. but i am very confident that no ministers elected will do this.

    As you said,do not jump the gun, if i am not sure of what I am writing. I would like to tell that I may not be as wise as you but i am not a fool like you do sound.

  25. Wow what great analysis, I think we need to award you a PHD for your thesis. Please don’t compare India with Bhutan, apart from importing 67% of their goods, don’t even know where you even got this figure from, India also exports a lot of things to numerous other countries and hence they do not have a trade deficit as we have with India. So again, don’t write rubbish. The difference with us is that we are so dependent on India, hence any inflation in India effects us equally. As an example, take the price rise of petrol and diesel products in 2011, the prices in Bhutan increased only when prices in India were also raised increased, so I hope you have now understood what I am trying to tell you.

    In regard to party funding, again you did not get me, what I am trying to tell you is that even MPs are not allowed to contribute more than a capped amount fixed by the ECB for campaigning purposes. If the ECB relaxed this rule, maybe the parties won’t be in dire straits as they presently are in. But then, the downside is that money politics will enter our democracy much like anywhere else, if your happy with it, then I have no problem with it too.

    Cheers buddy.

  26. nagilabgey says:

    Sorry, “I can tell,”
    You are not telling any thing sensible except conveying a blind disregard for others’ views and an obvious hatred for anything associated with the DPT or the government.

  27. there Was no state funding in 2007-08. yet DPT GOT 45/47. NOW WHY TO ASK FOR IT. SOUNDS LIKE HERULING PARTY IS NOT CONFIDENT FOR NEXT ELECTIONS……

  28. nagilabgey says:

    Kabji,
    Right! The DPT does not need it. The PDP will take it if it comes without fighting for it. The danger is without state funding DPT will win 47/47 next time, since no viable opposition party may come up without sate support. Do we want that? Any way, state funding issue is out for the moment – so need to wreck our heads arguing about it. RIP

  29. i can tell says:

    I can see how you guys feel when we attack DPT. All of you wait and watch and we shall conversed in same blog after the result is declared in next election. Wait, many interesting issues are on your way, you DPT Fans,….. about your party and their deeds…. I know how smart our P.M is and must be busy developing the strategy to fool us again but ……

  30. Voice of a Bhutanese citizen says:

    Hon’ble O.L. Lyonpo,
    First of all, thanks for giving this wonderful opportunity to raise our voice and opinion. If I am visiting your website and writing it only indicates that like many, I am a concerned citizen. I love this country and it is for this reason that I want to share my sincere opinion.

    I would like to first say that I support 100% for state funding of political parties. I do not have any relative in either of the present parties and therefore no conflict of interest. In a small country like Bhutan with a population of less than 1 million, how are the members going to be able to fund the parties if the members themselves (majority of citizens) below the poverty line? If there are about three – four parties, how much can the parties get from membership? I do not think it is practical like in a highly populated country? If parties are to be sustained on membership fees then the parties will be at the mercy of the “big pocket” members who will give them more money. That means, support must be met with support. That means rich will rule the country. I disagree where people say that it is unconstitutional for state to fund the political party. Constitution is made for the people and country to benefit and anything done for the country should be welcome. Constitution is not something written on stone and should be modified as long as majority of the people benefit. State funding means irrespective of the background, rich or poor, there is equal field…

    Let me make an analogy. Just see how the “Druk Star” or any of the singing competition on TV is going on. Those with money are in the top list even they have no good voice and singing talent. They get supported by their rich family voters.

    This kind of same scenario will happen. People with more money will win the elections.

    Whether you believe or not, lets wait and see. Bhutanese people will one day wake up and see that state funding is better considered now than later. Those who support the state funding is not to win the next election but for generations of Bhutanese people to live happy for ever rather than live at the mercy of few rich. Those who are vocal and have the oratory skills can say what not on TV but at the end of the day common sense and wisdom will prevail, as always on earth.

    I do not support any political party, I support the ideology laden with wisdom.

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