… when elected local leaders in the past were dissuaded from doing so by an ECB notification?
Analysis: While the National Assembly speaker is yet to decide on the resignation Druk Phuensum Tshogpa president, Jigmi Y Thinley, submitted a week ago, a more pertinent question the move has triggered is whether elected members of Parliament can resign on various grounds?
The former prime minister, who was one of 15 members elected to form the opposition, had sought resignation on grounds that he would like to “make way for someone young to step in”.
Legal provisions are not clear on whether someone can resign on such grounds, or on any other grounds for that matter.
The National Assembly Act just says a member can resign by writing to the speaker if the House is in session, and to the secretary general, if the house is not in session.
What merits attention is on implications that could come in if elected members were allowed to resign “just like that”.
Being the first such case where an elected member sought to resign, the concern was more on precedent setting, which could have a drastic impact on future scenarios.
One was if the 2008 situation repeated, where just two members were elected as opposition, and if both opted to resign. Would this lead to carrying out the whole election process again?
Move over, with the likely scenario of “close representations” like 24 and 23 members in ruling and opposition, where one from ruling opted to resign, a by-election would have to be held. In case a candidate in the opposition won, would it mean the two sides would switch roles?
Plus there were cost implications, of having invested in carrying out elections to elect the person, and in having to conduct a by-election in that constituency for replacement.
However, what the National Assembly or National Council or election Acts do not say is that elected members cannot resign.
But this is also what the Local Government Act does not state. However, elected local leaders were prohibited from resigning following several rounds of local government elections starting June 2011.
The move, which infuriated many local leaders, was done with the election commission issuing a notification in August last year, stating resignations from “local government elected functionaries” would not be entertained unless on serious health grounds.
This was because of having to conduct by-elections every now and then, which “wasted time and drained public resources”. Those wanting to resign would be first asked to refund the election cost.
Following the notification, a number of local leaders, including gups, who wanted to quit, were forced to change their plans. So could this apply to elected Parliament members as well?
The local leaders argued then that government in future, for some reason, can be dissolved any time, and whether the commission would ask them to stay back because state resources cannot afford by-elections.
Others also asked whether Parliament members wanting to resign be asked to complete their term, citing financial difficulties. Imposing such rules, some argued, would be costly, since it would send out “wrong signals” to those looking to contest elections in future.
But one message that came out clear then was that it would be “wrong” to hold back those who wished to resign.
Besides citing that it would be unfair to prevent individuals from their choice of decision, other reasons then were that elected members could compromise with their job responsibility since they were forced to stay back.
What the assembly Act also states is that, if a member remains absent for more than one-fourth of the number of days in a session without permission of the House, the member’s seat would be declared “vacant”.
This could mean that some members forbidden to resign could adopt the method and make their way out without having to fulfill obligations, if there are any.
Meanwhile, what has complicated the process even further in the present case was the coming in of a resignation letter from a member-elect even before the first sitting of the House, which sees oath taking of office and secrecy.
Some lawmakers said without taking the oath and formally becoming a member of Parliament from a “member-elect”, it would be inappropriate to resign at this stage.
Which means technically, to be able to resign, someone, who have won an election, must first take oath of office, become a Parliament member and submit resignation to the speaker.
Some explained that the procedures in place, which required elected members to register with the secretariat and submit the certificate election commission issues, a day ahead of the first sitting of the House, was to confirm that he or she was the member of the house.
To legitimise, Constitution demanded the members to take oath of office during the first sitting.
“Only then you’re an MP and only then can one seek resignation from the House by submitting application to the speaker,” one said.
Without having been registered as a member yet, this also leads to the question of whether it was even the speaker’s job to consider such resignations at this stage.
This could probably have the ball rolling back to the election commission’s court, which might have to clear the ambiguities and define how to go about.
By Kesang Dema