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Incumbents must resign: ECB

National Council: Serving National Council members, who are interested to contest the election, which will be held on April 23, will first have to resign.

Chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, while issuing notification on council election schedule yesterday, said the incumbents are expected to resign from the house in time for them to participate in the zomdus.

The term for the first council expires on April 28 and the election will be held, as per the law, to ensure a new council is in place by then.

The election commission, through a notification in February last year, has maintained that parliament members interested to contest elections have to resign from the post, upon issuance of royal decree calling parliamentary elections.

The commission said this was to ensure “free and fair elections and a level playing field for all candidates at every stage of electoral process.”

“All our actions are governed by rules, laws and orders, which form the basis of our decision, which could also be able to support in the event of judicial intervention,” Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said.

As of now, he said, the document they had, the basis, mandated them to ensure level playing field.

“So, for the level playing field, for the system and process that we have, we’ll have to require that the incumbents, who wish to contest submit evidence of having relieved from their duty,” he said, adding this applied to any other agency.

“Under that kind of arrangement, you have to go by imposing the requirement,” he said.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the decision, however, is independent of the status and tenure, and of other issues that are associated with the National Council “which are not under the purview of the election commission”.

The announcement comes at a time when serving council members, who have argued that the law actually allowed them to stay in office and contest the election, were confronted with a dilemma of whether or not they should resign.

Stating a number of reasons on why they felt they could contest while in office, the council also made a submission to His Majesty last year seeking guidance.

The resignation before the completion of their term had also been an issue, since it meant forgoing their retirement benefits, which amounted to almost Nu 700,000.

So far, only one of the 20 elected council representatives made public his intention to re-contest.

Council’s deputy chairperson, Trashigang representative, Dasho Dr Sonam Kinga, had said earlier he had taken the decision, irrespective of whether they should resign or not.

However, there are also other incumbents, who are ready to join the race, but said they would come out at an “appropriate” time.

“Driven by the genuine motivation to try and serve another council term, we’ll have to comply with election laws,” one member preferring anonymity said.

But it was also evident there were others, who were planning to go back on their decision after the election commission’s announcement yesterday.

Some members, in the past, have said that, having to forgo a substantial amount to take part in the election, with uncertainties on whether they would be re-elected, was a big risk.

In the last few Parliament sessions, the council members have also tried to amend the Parliamentary Entitlement Act.  One of the proposed amendments was on gratuity the members were entitled for only after completion of their term.

It had, however, failed to garner enough support from their colleagues in the National Assembly, and the amendment bill had to be withdrawn.

By Kesang Dema

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