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Nationwide dzongkhag level training

Electoral Disputes Settlement Body: To speed up settlement of election disputes that may arise in the upcoming elections, the election commission of Bhutan (ECB) is training civil servants across the country on the roles and responsibilities of an election dispute settlement body (EDSB).

Election commissioner Deki Pema said, with increased number of political parties in upcoming elections, EDSB has become more relevant.

“Electoral disputes might be more now than what they were in the last parliamentary elections of 2008, because we have more political parties,” she said, adding that there is nothing wrong when disputes occur, for it was inevitable in a healthy competition. “But it’s important that such political rows are settled fairly, as per the provisions of electoral laws,” Deki Pema said.

ECB has therefore increased the dispute settlement body to three-tiers from the one in the last elections.  The three are dzongkhag election dispute settlement body (DEDSB), central election dispute settlement body and full election commission.

Dzongkhag election dispute settlement body members comprise the dzongda as chief election coordinator, dzongrab/dungpa, legal officer and respective GAO.

The central election dispute settlement body has an election commissioner, secretary of the commission, officer from a relevant division or department, and legal officer as members, while a full election commission comprises three commissioners.

DEDSB would settle election-related disputes during the election period in respective districts. “Only those constituting serious criminal offences, like bribery and threats, would be forwarded to the court for further follow up,” Deki Pema said.

Except for few petty misdemeanours, most electoral offences are graded as felony in the election act.

Chapter 21 under section 527 of the election act states that any person committing an electoral offence, under section 518 to 526, including threatening and bribery, shall be guilty of the offence of felony of the fourth degree.

“Most of the electoral offences would be graded as felony of fourth degree, with a sentence of minimum three to five years imprisonment,” registrar general of high court, drangpon Tshering Dorji, said.

ECB human resource officer, Sherub Zangpo, said the training is to familiarise and train DEDSB members on the election dispute settlement system. “It’s also to educate members on relevant laws to undertake the duties of EDSB effectively,” he said.

Gewog administration officers could prevent 50-60 percent of electoral disputes through sensitisation of election code of conduct and electoral laws to the people, ECB legal officer, Sonnamm Dorjee said.

“It’s easy to point fingers to others, but it’s even more important to ensure that we don’t breach the same laws when we try to prevent others from violation,” Sonnamm Dorjee said.

DEDSB members are also trained to prevent any breach of election code of conduct and electoral laws.

Dzongkhag election officer (DEO), Tshering Phuntsho, said formation of DEDSB would help fast-track settlement of electoral-related disputes in dzongkhags.  Most of the election disputes arise from the breach of election code of conduct and electoral laws.

By Tempa Wangdi

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