There has been blatant and erroneous portrayal that ECB returned the ”13th of June 2017 application of the aspiring Party Druk Kuenphen Tshogpa after more than a month on 18th of July 2017” implying that nothing had been communicated during this period and the decision was taken arbitrarily giving them neither time nor guidance to the applicant. Based on this, references have been made to “issue of miscommunication or alleged delay in informing the parties”.
It is therefore important to inform the readers and remind the stakeholders of the following facts:
a) The ‘application’ submitted on 13th of June 2017 was no more than a plain letter with some shoddy hand-scribbled documents. The ECB vide letter No.: ECB (SEC-68)/2017/3160 dated 16th of June 2017 directed the party to submit the application in the prescribed Forms latest by 30th of June 2017 with all the legal requirements for registration of a Political Party. The application was re-submitted on the date specified along with the list of members and Party Charter in English but no potential Candidate list was submitted. Similarly, no detailed expenditure records was submitted though there was Nu 62,000 shown as expenditure for Dzongkhag office rent.
It may be noted that before the 13th of June 2017, the founder had approached the ECB and he had been provided with copies of the relevant documents and officials had responded to his queries during his various visits to Democracy House since then.
b) The Sub-Committee of the Registration for the Political Party studied the documents submitted on 30th of June 2017 against the letter and spirit of the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Laws and By-Laws made thereunder and liaised with the applicant on the various requirements through the Registrar and relevant officers including on matters related to the Charter, Membership and Finance thereof.
c) The Sub-Committee vide letter No.: ECB (SEC-68)/2017/3288 dated 14th of July 2017, sent a letter to the applicant Party calling for a meeting with the Sub-Committee on 18th of July 2017 for a final review of the registration papers. The applicant Party was also reminded to submit the list of aspiring Candidates and Financial Statement requested on 12th of July 2017 to be brought latest by 17th of July 2017.
The applicant Party vide its letter No.: Ref.DKT/ECB-22/2017-18/004 dated 17th of July 2017, submitted a list of 41 aspiring Candidates and the Financial Statement to the ECB. These were immediately reviewed by the Sub-Committee.
d) During the meeting on 18th of July 2017, the Sub-Committee shared with the applicant Party the observations of the Sub-Committee on the documents that the Party had submitted so far and provided further opportunity to the Party to submit revised documents.
The discussion in the meeting focused on the following key areas:
1. Broad Based Membership
The aspirant party had submitted a list of 108 members. From the 108 members in the List of Members submitted, 15 are found not in compliance with the Laws. Although there are members from all 20 Dzongkhags, there are none in 13 National Assembly Demkhongs.
Upon random crosschecking, three confirmed that they had registered as a member of their own free will but one claimed otherwise although the benefit of doubt could be given since the person demonstrated some knowledge by mentioning that it may have been done by her friend.
2. Party Offices
Lease agreements for office space in the 20 Dzongkhags with the owners, who are all members of the party, has been executed. One party office is found to be in the house of a Mangmi which is objectionable in view of Local Governments being apolitical although it is noted that the brother is a registered member and had been the source for giving on lease. The Party could have rectified this case thereafter.
3. Potential Candidate
A name list of 41 potential candidates were submitted of which one is not registered in the Electoral Roll; eight of them are aged 23-24 years old, twenty-six 25 to 29 years, and six between 30-38 years. The lack of a mix of age and work experience of the potential candidates, with some not even meeting the minimum age requirement, indicate the lack of reliable leadership and readiness of the aspirant Party to contest elections. This is a critical weakness and factor to be taken into account in deciding on the registration decision. The Party responded that they have senior persons who would come to the open after Party registration which is found vague and unreliable with not a single one involved in the Party through its formation process.
4. Expenditure and Income Statements
The Financial Statement covering income and expenditure did not match the Bank Statement submitted. Although actual payments towards office space in the Dzongkhags had not been made it had been reflected as expenditure incurred with a prior understanding with the lessors for payment only if registered although the lease agreement has been legally executed for a period of three years. These are objectionable practices.
5. Party Charter
Issues and concerns on the Charter were raised by the Sub-Committee, page by page. Essentially, these included gaps, weaknesses and inconsistencies relating to the intra party governance and democratic practices with no clear Party structure besides the lack of a purposive Preamble and inclusion of the mandatory provisions such as the declaration of allegiance to the Constitution etc. Further, the document, both Dzongkha and English, were found not edited or proof-read with obvious signs of copy-paste from other sources which indicated the lack of seriousness and/or professional competence. The key areas could have been addressed in time as these had been pointed out pedantically, page by page, with proper noting and attention.
6. The total rent payable as per the lease agreement is a total of Nu. 62,000/- every month which is high level of recurrent expenditure and renders the financial sustainability of the party highly questionable. The need for a strategy for financial sustainability was indicated but nothing was submitted except for indications of voluntary contribution by family and some vague expressions of support.
7. How truly broad-based the party is was an area of concern, as the Charter indicates various Membership categories and possible privileges of the founder as the leader of the party while the source of income for the party appears limited to one person and his family or a small close circle.
The opportunity was given to the applicant Party to share, listen and take note of the concerns as well as to provide their own explanations and additional information. The process of party registration is a serious matter and the process was undertaken with due diligence. An applicant is expected to have reached an advanced stage of preparation at this point of the process. Therefore, time was given up to 1pm of 20th of July 2017 for the Party to submit any new or revised documents in particular referring to concerns and issues in the Charter, a strategy for financial sustainability, membership and Party Office.
However, only a letter was received from the applicant Party vide letter No.: Ref.DKT/ECB-22/2017-18/005 dated 20th of July 2017 stating the inability to submit any further documents.
Therefore, the allegations that they had no time, guidance or inadequate time with no response from the Commission since their initial submission on 13th of June 2017 till the meeting on 18th of July 2017 is not true.
The applicant Party, after the initial visit to the ECB many months earlier, had all the time to prepare before submitting the Application and even after the initial submission had received support and facilitation short of the new Political Party itself becoming the sole product of the ECB. Rather than the alleged confusion or vague provisions in the Electoral Laws, it is, simply put, a case of not being convincing enough.
We appreciate, respect and encourage the public and the media’s interest in the matter and believe it is important to set the record straight for optimum and genuine participation by all.
Election Commission of Bhutan