I am writing about a matter of grave importance: the involvement of political parties in local governments.
You will recall that, during your recent annual conference, the Prime Minister called for party workers to be involved in the development process at the local levels. And, that he requested for party workers to be invited to observe the sessions of the local governments.
Article 22 of the Constitution clearly defines the powers, objectives, structure and functions of local governments. It also ensures that local governments remain nonpartisan. As such, political parties cannot be directly involved in the development process at the local levels, and allowing them to do so would seriously undermine the integrity and authority of local governments.
Chapter 8 of the Local Government Act empowers the chairpersons of local governments to invite any person as an observer during their sessions. So nobody else, including the government, should be permitted to decide who must be invited as observers. And nobody, especially party workers, should be allowed to receive automatic invitations based on their positions. I firmly believe that giving in to the government or to party workers on this matter would compromise the powers of the chairpersons, and encourage party politics to influence local governments.
Local governance has been carefully and steadily strengthened during the past three decades, beginning with the establishment of Dzongkhag Yarkay Tshogdus in 1981. The introduction of parliamentary democracy should further strengthen local government institutions, and the Constitution, which requires power and authority to be decentralized and devolved to local governments, provides the legal instruments to do so.
I would, therefore, like to request you, Dasho, as the Chief Executive of your Dzongkhag, to protect local governments to the best of your ability, and to prevent political interests from corrupting this important institution.
With my best wishes,
Copy: The Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of Bhutan
Photo credit: Kuensel