The two newly formed political parties, Druk Gaki Tshogpa and Druk Kuenphen Tshogpa, are yet to register with the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).
According to ECB, the promoters of the political parties are in the process of carrying out preparatory work such as mobilising members and support.
Citing Rule 3.3 of the Political Parties Rules and Regulations 2015, ECB clarified that an applicant party will enjoy the rights and privileges of a political party under the Constitution only after it is registered and notified so by the Registrar of political parties. Once a party obtains its registration certificate, the party, its candidates and supporters, are obliged to follow the Code of Conduct as laid down in the Election Act and the political party rules and regulations.
ECB also made clear that media cannot promote the cause of a political party in their reporting. “If you [the media] would like to inform the readers, you may do so, but without promoting the cause of a particular party,” ECB said.
The founder of the Gaki Tshogpa, Cheku Dukpa, said the party would finalise its manifesto soon. “We are hoping to register our party by the end of the month. We are looking for members from each gewog, not just from the dzongkhags,” he said.
Cheku Dukpa said that in terms of support and membership, his party is on a sound footing. “We intend to change the landscape of politics. We are going to offer much excitement in the near future.”
Cheku Dukpa, who has met ECB officials twice to seek advice on the party registration process, said: “We will hold our first party convention soon.” A party elects its office bearers, including its president, at a convention.
The Kuenphen Tshogpa’s promoter, Jigme Drukpa, said that his party held its first convention in June. He was elected president of the party. The party has its head office in Thimphu.
“We are planning to register our party within this month,” he said, adding that he has already submitted some of the documents that are required for registration, to ECB. He said he has submitted the names of party members and officer bearers, including the president.
Some of the members of the party, he said, are in the civil service and will be revealed at an “appropriate time”.
However, Jigme Drukpa said that due to the formalities involved, registering a political party is not easy. “ECB is guiding us with the registration processes.”
According to the Political Parties Rules and Regulations, an application for registration should be made to ECB a month after its formation. The name of the political party, party symbol, the names and addresses of its president, secretary, treasurer, and other office-bearers, should also be submitted along with other relevant documents.
According to the Political Parties Rules and Regulations, a party’s membership should be “broad-based with cross-national membership and support in all dzongkhags”.
The applicant party must also submit the names of registered members from each dzongkhag along with the accounts of the fees and voluntary contributions received as on the day of the submission of the application.
A political party cannot launch door-to-door member registration drive. Registration of new members can only be carried out in the party office.
ECB has started preparing for the third parliamentary elections to be held in 2018.
The National Council will complete its term in May 2018, while the National Assembly will dissolve in August. Assuming that the prime minister does not dissolve the Assembly prematurely, elections could be held in late October 2018.
In the case of the Council, however, elections could be held before May 2018 so that the third National Council starts its term as soon as the current Council members complete their term. This is because the Council is a “continuous House”.
ECB said that it has already issued public advisories to avoid the time periods of February to May 2018 and August to October 2018 for any programmes and activities that involve public gathering. Also, ECB has advised all prospective contestants that census be transferred in the constituency of their choice.
ECB stated that it has advised all those interested to contest the elections on ensuring mitsi (census registration) in constituency of their choice.
According to ECB, all 20 dzongkhags are also finalising the customised strategy for each dzongkhag focusing in particular on voter turnout, which was the theme of the “fifth Biennial ECB Conference” as well as the stakeholder’s discussion forum for Successful Third Parliamentary Elections 2018 held recently at Paro.
After the successful conduct of the second local government elections 2016, ECB conducted “The Learning from Experience Programme” of local government elections 2016 with various stakeholders including the media and received their feedbacks and recommendations based on the actual experience. This was done to enhance and improve the electoral process, ECB said.