The Election Commission of Bhutan was deeply honoured to receive yesterday, in the sacred Golden Throne Room of Tashichhodzong, the Royal Decree Calling Elections to the National Assembly of the Second Parliament of Bhutan.
The Poll Days are decreed to be on 31st of May 2013 for the Primary Round and the 13th of July 2013 for the General Elections: dates found most auspicious by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
While the details of the Election Schedule are presented in the Notification, it is found necessary to highlight and reiterate on some of the major points.
- There will be two rounds of elections for the National Assembly. The first is the Primary Round in which Political Parties whose Letter of Intent (LoI) is accepted by the Election Commission of Bhutan shall contest in all the 20 Dzongkhags.
- The two Parties securing the First Highest and Second Highest total number of votes polled in the 20 Dzongkhags shall nominate one Candidate each to contest in the second round i.e. the General Elections in each of the 47 National Assembly Demkhongs.
- The Letter of Intent shall be submitted to the Election Commission of Bhutan invariably including a Tentative List of Candidates, for each of the 47 National Assembly Demkhongs.
- The Election Commission shall undertake the scrutiny of the Letter of Intent filed by the Political Parties and issue the Letter of Acceptance/Rejection.
- The Nomination Papers of a Candidate nominated to contest the General Elections shall be filed with and scrutinized by the respective Returning Officers under intimation to the Election Commission.
- The Qualifying Date for the Electoral Roll is the 1st of April 2013 which means those not younger than eighteen years of age as on 1st of April 2013 meets the minimum age requirement to be a voter.
- Those born on or before 11th of June 1988 and on or after 12th of June 1948 meet the legal age requirement for Candidates.
- The draft Electoral Roll for the Parliamentary Elections 2013 was already issued on 8th of April 2013 for public inspection and the public were invited to file Claims and Objections by 18th of April 2013. The respective Dzongkhag Election Office as well as the ECB Head Office shall continue to distribute the Voter Photo Identity Cards (VPIC) to those who were unable to collect it earlier.
- In terms of campaign, a Political Party/Candidate may proceed with the Election Campaign upon the receipt of the acceptance of the Letter of Intent by the Commission or his/her candidature by the concerned Returning Officer.
- The campaign for the Primary Round shall be Party-based, focusing on the Party Manifesto, Vision and Mission and be led by the central Party leadership and the respective Candidate-designate who may be appointed and authorised by the Party in each of the Demkhongs as its Representative for Election Campaign.
- A Political Party/Candidate shall conduct the campaign as per the Election Campaign Schedule approved by the concerned Returning Officer and copy endorsed to the concerned Observer.
- Common Forums in each Gewog/Dzongkhag Thromde for both the Primary Round and the General Elections shall be organised to provide the contesting Political Parties/Candidates equal opportunity to address the electorate.
- The Election Commission would like to also put on record exemplary manner in which the 2013 National Council Candidates and their supporters conducted the campaigning. We have every reason to believe that Parties and Candidates for National Assembly Elections would continue to set such precedence in carrying out electioneering in Bhutanese elections.
- The BBS would be covering and broadcasting the Common Forum for the Primary Round in 47 Gewogs, one in each of the 47 Demkhongs which would further increase access to the campaigns by a wide range of voters.
- Any additional public meetings, door-to-door campaigns or rallies shall be subject to the provisions of the law, Code of Conduct and as per the campaign schedule and use of vehicles as approved by the Returning Officer.
- We will have for the Primary Round, Two rounds of Public Debate between the contesting Political Parties, arranged in the Capital by the ECB Secretariat and the BBSCL.
- For the General Election, the Public Debate shall be conducted in each Demkhong between the Candidates contesting in the respective Dzongkhags arranged by the Returning Officers and the BBSCL.
- A Political Party contesting the Primary Round and a Candidate contesting the General Elections cannot exceed the election campaign expenditure ceiling of Nu. 260,000/- i.e. Nu.130,000/- provided as public campaign funds by the State and up to Nu.130,000/- from the Party’s Funds as raised through the permitted sources of income.
- Religious Personalities, Organisations and Civil Society Organisations shall not participate, directly or indirectly, or give grounds to reasonably construe support, opposition or dislike of any Candidate contesting the elections.
- Civil servants shall cast their votes either in person at the designated Polling Stations or by Postal Ballot but shall not participate or attend any campaign events or meetings except for those civil servants on election duty required to observe or monitor such events.
- The Midhey Gothrips shall not participate, directly or indirectly, or give grounds to reasonably construe support, opposition or dislike of any Party and/or Candidate contesting the elections.
- Following through from the National Council elections, despite our request it has come to our attention that some elected Midhey Gothrips may have engaged in some degree of electioneering. We hope that these will not be the case in this election and we also urge the recently elected Members on the National Council that they remain apolitical except to cast their vote, which should they wish they can immediately register to vote by post.
- With regard to the Postal Ballots, all postal voters are reminded to start applying immediately for their postal ballots, taking care to include all the necessary and correct details as required in the Form. To facilitate this process further, we are setting up Clinics in public places, which will be notified shortly, where postal voters can drop by and get the Forms or any required assistance in filling it up.
- Forty-Seven National Observers, Forty-Seven Returning Officers and six Assistant Returning Officers are being appointed. Those officers already appointed for the National Council Elections are being re-appointed except for a few changes.
- One of the ARO shall be in ECB Head Office with the responsibility to handle the Postal Ballots of the overseas Postal Voters, other than the USA, and remote areas in the country, to speed up the delivery of the Postal Ballots.
- The Poll Days, 31st of May 2013 for Primary Round and 13th of July 2013 for General Elections are the Most Important Days which must be marked in the Calendars of every Bhutanese Voter.
- The Election Results, as has become the standard practice in Bhutanese Elections, shall be counted and covered live immediately after the close of Polls and declared officially on the next day of the two Poll Days.
It is the duty of the Election Commission to remind the People of Bhutan that His Majesty The King has Commanded that:
“…Our elections will be carried out in accordance to the Constitution, with all the people taking equal responsibility and working in harmony to ensure that it is as successful as first elections.”
We would like that it is important that we express our differences at places and forum democratically provided such as at election campaign and debate venues and the floor of parliament. Outside these venues we must all remain steadfast as citizens of one Nation, united by our common goal and aspiration of Democratic and Harmonious Bhutanese Community.