Better party

That a group of people in Thimphu are forming a political party comes as very good news. Our two existing parties – one ruling, the other in opposition – cannot offer sufficient choice for democracy to take hold in our country. So we should be excited about the prospects of a third party. And we should encourage them.

But we may need even more people to step forward and form political parties. After all, both the existing parties – DPT and the PDP – have huge loans, and may not be around to participate in the 2013 elections. The Election Commission of Bhutan, in their notification of 31 January 2009, has already made it clear that “State financing shall not be forthcoming under any circumstance.” And, more importantly, the ECB, in that same notification, directed “the parties to clear all financial liabilities … by 30 June 2012.”

Unless something goes terribly wrong, we still have another three and a half years till the next National Assembly elections. And that’s enough time for concerned citizens to get together and form several viable political parties.

Our democracy

bridgeYesterday, HRH Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck inaugurated a workshop entitled “Democracy in our Place”. During this important workshop, participates will discuss various concepts about democracy and good governance.

In her royal address, HRH observed that many of us readily declare that “democracy must succeed in Bhutan.” But for democracy to succeed, HRH commanded that “…it must be relevant to the lives of the citizens, and most importantly it must be beneficial to them.”

A gentle reminder for all of us.

The workshop, which is being conducted in Hotel Zhiwaling, is organised by the Election Commission of Bhutan. You’ll find the full text of the Royal Address here.

Compulsory contributions?

I’d promised one anonymous reader that I’d give my views on an unrelated comment on “Sustaining happiness”. This was what our anonymous reader had asked: I have been reading about the contribution of the MPs salary towards sustaining thier offices and wondered how that worked. How is accounted for in the election commission. To me, its seems like an advantage over other parties and perhaps something only DPT is capable of right now. given, that PDP has only two members even if they wanted to contribute , it wouldn’t compare.

The comment relates to talk about the DPT requiring their MPs to contribute part of their salaries to maintain party offices in their respective constituencies. It also relates to the DPT’s decision last July that their MPs would contribute 10% of their salaries to the party.

DPT has an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. And if their MPs decide to finance party offices in their constituencies, that’s their business. So I believe that as long as contributions made by the MPs are in accordance with the law, no one can complain about the advantage that DPT enjoys.

But I’m concerned if the each of their MPs is required to contribute the same amount of money to the party. If that were the case, MPs could be making compulsory contributions to their party. Or be paying some sort of fee. And both are illegal.

Our election laws allow party members, which would naturally include MPs, to make voluntary contributions to their party. They can contribute, but that contribution must be voluntary. Contributions cannot be made compulsory, or forced, on any member. Since I can’t see how 45 persons could agree to voluntarily contribute exactly same amount of money, I believe that such contributions may be illegal. So our anonymous commentator may have a point.

I’d made reference to this in an earlier entry.