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Loopholes in the scrutiny process?

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In going by the books, election commission can scrutinise candidates only in the general elections

In less than a week after the election commission completed scrutiny of letters of intent political parties submitted, allegations are rife that some of those, who made it past that finishing line, are “finalising” candidates at this stage.

People’s Democratic Party, during its annual convention on May 9, launched 12 more candidates, besides announcing that three other candidates are processing resignation.

A media report revealed a teacher-candidate of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa had sought resignation just a couple of days back.

Such developments had many wondering whether parties had “feigned” candidates by merely providing names to make up 47 candidates, a prerequisite while submitting the letter of intent to contest the primary round of ongoing assembly elections.

This is also happening in the backdrop of disqualification of Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party from contesting the primaries for failing to produce candidates from Gasa’s two constituencies.

But with candidates seeking resignation at this stage, and words doing the rounds that parties are changing candidates now, many are questioning the validity of election commission’s letter of intent scrutiny process.

“It means parties can get accepted for primaries by simply giving in “random” names,” one said. “There are ambiguities in the screening process.”

Some said there were loopholes, where political parties could take a short cut, while others said there was a need for more “firm” filtering process to ensure “genuine” parties, which had a full set of good candidates could be allowed to contest the primary round.

However, PDP president Tshering Tobgay said they have all 47 candidates and would launch them “at their own time”.

The party made public 40 candidates so far.

DCT president Lily Wangchhuk had said the election commission’s requirement for now was Royal University of Bhutan’s letter of attestations and did not talk about resignation.

Rightly so, in submitting the list of 47 candidates, it entailed submitting names of candidates, their citizenship number, attestation letter from RUB, signature of candidates and nothing more.

“The fact is they’ve given us a complete list,” chief election commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said, adding the scrutiny was based on those forms.

“As far as we’re concerned, we are going step by step, there’s no lapses,” he said.

However, the letter of intent form, besides the candidate details, seeks only schedule of election campaigns, financial statement, list of party offices and registered members and a copy of manifesto, among others.

Thus, at this stage, there is no way for the commission to ensure whether candidates have resigned from their previous job, check if they have any criminal record, or see if a candidate is mentally sound.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said, while scrutinising letters of intent, they did not insist on further details because there was the next stage, where parties contesting general elections would field candidates, who will seek nomination from returning officers.

At that time, candidates had to produce relieving order issued by former employer, audit and tax clearances, non-criminal conviction record and so on.

But in submitting the list of candidates, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi explained that, although it was called tentative, its legal intention was to have, to an extent possible, the final list.

“We may not have asked, but parties should give names of people, who have all the credentials,” he said. “We trust parties to put in candidates, who have all the documents and would qualify in the end.”

But the thing is, even if the parties manage to get accepted by “temporary” names, law doesn’t specify they cannot change candidates, after the acceptance of letters of intent.

Election Act talks only about allowing parties in general elections to take in candidates from parties that do not qualify, after “deregistering” from former party.

This could also mean political parties can work towards finalising the candidates, once their letter of intent was accepted.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said, in principle, parties could change candidates, since there were human conditions, like illness and death, or some candidates willingly giving up, while others got disqualified for some reason.

But minus the circumstances, which were allowable under the laws, he said “in reality” it was not acceptable for a party to mislead the commission or pull a fast one.

“We’d like to think that they are parties worthy of our respect,” he said, adding the law was “well rounded” and that there were consequences for people who “misrepresented facts or misguided election commission”.

Meanwhile, many still believe that election commission should go beyond the “form”.

The issue was also raised when the parties had applied to commission for registration last year. Observers felt the commission should be allowed to determine whether a party is “worth” being registered.

“Similarly, the commission should ensure the party contesting primaries has good composition, leadership and plans for the country,” a private consultant said. “If their hands are tied, relevant laws should be amended.”

By Kesang Dema | Thimphu

12 Comments to “Loopholes in the scrutiny process?”
  1. Predictor | May 13th, 2013 at 13:42:36

    RCSC has posted on its website reminding the civil servants to be apolitical. But, actually, civil servants would like to remind RCSC to ensure that civil servants are appolitica. Why have you allowed some civil servants to join certain political parties without resigning?

  2. truecitizen | May 13th, 2013 at 12:04:10

    As a consequence of ECB’s careless interpretation of the electoral law, one of the party had to be out. ECB should have sought legal advice fromthe Courts or the OAG to interpreted the law rather than interpreting in the way it serves its purpose tocover up their flaws.

    TO quote the Chief Election Commisssioner, he says that ” the legal interpretation of tentative list of candidates means the final list”. If this be the stand of ECB, how come parties are allowed to introduce new candidates after the letter of intent. If ECB is to go by its interpretation of tentative list then it should be those names in the letter of intent that should go for the primary round and no new candidates should be allowed.

    If BKP should disqualify then DCT should also be disqualified on the basis that DCT has one civil servant who has not yet been relieved RCSC. This means that DCT has one candidate who does not qualify and therefore DCT is shot by one candidate, thereby having only 46 candidates. Therefore DCT should also be disqualified on the same stand as ECB had taken against BKP.

    Come on ECB, please go through any dictionary, be it the Legal dictionary, Oxford, Cambridge or any other to see the defnition of Tentative. As far as I am concerned, it means Undertain, unconfirmed, indefinite, unsettled, speculative or the like.

    ECB please do not play with the words of the law to cover a blunder you have committed. This has cost the loss of a political party only because of ECBs rash interpretation of the electoral laws. I think ECB has a bigger role to play and please do justice to the mandate and responsibility bestowed upon you by the Constitution.

  3. greenboard | May 13th, 2013 at 09:46:21

    DEAR BBS DAWA,
    we understand that you are really busy these days. However, in the interest of democracy and security of nation could you please have a live dicussion on this topic with provision of live call in by the viewers about the issues.

    I deeply feel sad to see ECB favouring some political parties…forget other poeple……

  4. drukpaimikhung | May 12th, 2013 at 21:38:41

    Well BKP is there to stay. Their honesty, truthfulness and transpirancy will pay for with time and Bhutan will be the winner. Bhutanese people will learn a big lesson from BKP in due course of time where party politics is not about money but its about demoratic principles and moral values. BKP keep the spirits high and let’s look beyond 2013.

    The scrutiny process needs seriously need to looked into for improvement to strengthen the institution. As covered in the Media, some parties have filled in 49 candidates, some have in-service civil servants. I feel these are the grounds for those parties for disqualification. ECB seriously needs to look into this before these loopholes takes root.

  5. joker | May 12th, 2013 at 15:25:44

    I thought Mr. Tshering Tobgay was the master of Constitution. But he does not seem to care the statement that civil servants should be apolitical. Those three civil servants who joined before resignation should be immediately kicked out and ECB also must seriously question the parties concerned.

  6. Sobu | May 12th, 2013 at 12:56:35

    Dear Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi, Try to follow the election law of country and implement equally to every individual. eg. you disqualified BKP for primary round not able to secure 2 candidates of 47 and made qualified PDP & DCP for primary round although they put very tentative candidates those who are still civil servant.

    People request: It will be fair…. the scrutiny of the candidates is very necessary by election commission for primary round. Otherwise, the civil servants will try to kill two birds by one stone.

    Dear countrymen, see the partiality of election commission of Bhutan.

  7. myview | May 12th, 2013 at 10:58:55

    Now, people are making as if a child play/mockery of governing country! It is all coz of loopholes in our laws and interpretations…Forget about governing country, some party even can’t handle one department with their entire 47 member team. People of Bhutan should take politics seriously. Laws need to be amended- particularly, age criteria should be changed. Increase it to at least 30 or 35 or else, in future government will have to fund so many parties in primary round. While the intention is to have many credible parties in primary round, today , we are having so many parties whose credibility is in big question mark. Just producing names of 47 people with manifesto is not adequate to rule the country. i think it is much more than that…Let’s not make political parties as temporary avenue, once in five years to be filled by contractors, fresh graduates, businessman and then vanish after election. It should be a credible institution which looks beyond one or two elections.

  8. Opinion 123 | May 12th, 2013 at 10:27:49

    I mean ” Kim Jong Un ” .

  9. Opinion 123 | May 12th, 2013 at 10:25:20

    There is another Kin Jung Un in ECB. ECB is very flexible and most of the works are done at their will. Seriously ECB is very absurd.

  10. Sensitive | May 12th, 2013 at 09:34:56

    Really, the laws are disgusting. One of the most important requirements for a candidate should be his or her resignation from civil service. If a candidate is not required to resign from a civil service, then we all can form political parties while in our jobs at least for the primary round. The Constitution stating civil servants to be apolitical is the strongest law to be understood that all candidates should resign from civil service before joining a party. In fact, no civil servants should be allowed to declare their party’s affiliation prior to resigning from civil service. What a shame on PDP and DNT? They insist so much on curbing corruption, but getting themselves in corrupted actions. Mr. Tshering Tobgay always speaks that he abides by the Constitution, but he does not care that civil servants are apolitical according to Constitution. Does he interpret the constitution as he likes? Sorry for BKP, shame to PDP and DCT, shame on ECB and RCSC!

  11. ugen | May 11th, 2013 at 18:22:03

    BKP paid a very high price for being honest, truthful and transparent. Thanks to the ECB for being overzealous, for taking hasty decision, for ignoring the appeal from other political parties, all in the name of the electoral law where the scrutiny processes appear to be deeply flawed. Very disappointing!

  12. Opinion | May 11th, 2013 at 18:15:21

    What a JOKE??? Is is all ECB has to offer? What a LAME EXCUSE.. Every rule has a purpose. If scrutiny is only to check RUB attestation and not even see if the candidate is actually available ( resigned from previous job) what is the point??? I will form a party with names of 47 candidates who have not even resigned from civil service but have RUB attestations then. Is the acceptable to you ECB??? Is this all our ECB has to offer? Blaming the rules??? I thought ECB has some wisdom. As a concerned citizen, I feel OUTRAGED that ECB doesnt feel accountable for their fault. There is no need to feel shy about accepting mistake. Appologise to the people and BKP and things might settle.

    For those parties who is trying to be smart and fooling ECB, its shame on them. If they can get registered by HOOK or CROOK, they can potentially sell the nation for their selfish benefits. I feel sad.

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