The Election Commission of Bhutan would like to inform the general public that another fifteen cases have been filed since the last public update issued on 4th of July 2013 on the Election Disputes related to the on-going General Election 2013 bringing the total number of cases to thirty-seven.
A summary of the cases and the status are presented here-below:
Case # 11. The case related to Norbu Wangchuk’s statements alleged to be indicative of a coalition between PDP and DNT was appealed to the Centre Election Dispute Settlement Body (CEDSB) by the DPT on the grounds that the decision by the Trashigang Dzongkhag Election Dispute Settlement Body (DEDSB) was not commensurate with the allegations. The CEDSB, after giving both parties the opportunity to be heard at the Hearing held on 6th of July 2013, issued on 8th of July 2013, its written and reasoned decision, upholding the decision of the Trashigang DEDSB to issue a Public Reprimand to Norbu Wangchuk although finding that the taped evidence is admissible in the absence of any direct evidence of spying, impersonation or bugging. More so, during the Election Period, the CEDSB is of the opinion that a Candidate to a Public Office cannot lay claim to privacy rights when addressing a crowd of voters at a meeting which was not a closed door meeting and conducted with the permission of the Electoral Authorities and believes that admitting evidence based on recordings of election events held in public, involving members of the general public, could have a deterrent effect and impose a certain discipline on irresponsible chatter which can contribute towards more thoughtful public dialogue and meaningful campaign.
Case # 14. The Haa DEDSB’s decision on the case in Sombaykha on the allegation of PDP Coordinator giving Nu.16,000/- was appealed to the CEDSB by the DPT on 27th of June 2013 on the grounds of non-commensurate penalty and questioning the source of the money. The CEDSB, in view of the importance to check and ensure money does not have an undue influence in elections, immediately fielded an investigation team to Rangtse, Haa. The Appellant’s Representative and Nima Tshering’s Representative attended the Hearing which was held on 6th of July 2013. PDP did not send a Representative to the Hearing although the opportunity was given through a Notice of the Hearing served on 2nd of July 2013. Thereafter, the CEDSB issued on 8th of July 2013 its written and reasoned decision to amend the decision of the Haa DEDSB by issuing a Public Reprimand to PDP for general liability, imposing a fine of Nu.16,000/- to Nima Tshering and warning in person by the Chief Election Coordinator and the total distributed amount of Nu.16,000/- to be forfeited and each of the 11 individuals who received the money to be fined 50% of the amount received, payable in person to the Deputy Chief Election Coordinator at Sombeykha Dungkhag.
Case # 20. The case was filed by PDP against the DPT President and DPT Candidate, Bongo_Chapchha Demkhong for their public statements that media have been bribed; the online site Bhutanomics and The Bhutanese are PDP’s media organs; and The Bhutanese is owned by the PDP President’s brother. As it related to media, it was forwarded to the Media Arbitrator who referred it back to the ECB as it was found to be related more to the violation of the Code of Conduct. After the conduct of two hearings on 5th and 6th of July 2013, the CEDSB dismissed the case as the Complaint was lodged under the name of the Vice President of PDP but the signature was marked on his behalf without any authorization being produced at any point of time including at the two hearings that were conducted on 5th and 6th of July 2013.
Case # 23. Chorten Tshering, DPT Dzongkhag Coordinator filed a case in Trashi Yangtse on 3rd of June 2013 against Thinley Dendup, complaining against the distribution of photocopies of The Bhutanese in and around Trashi Yangtse. As the complaint was not endorsed by the Candidate or President of the Party as required vide letter No. ECB/CEC-01/2013/4261 dated 21st of June 2013 addressed to the Presidents of the two Parties and copied to all 94 Candidates, the Commission dismissed the case on 8th of July 2013 also having noted that Thinley Dendup was not a registered member of the PDP and a few persons who received the copy said they had asked for it.
Case # 24. The case filed by Yeshey Zimba, DPT’s South Thimphu Candidate, on 3rd of July 2013 alleging that Gupdeb Naku, Tandin Wangmo the PDP Candidate’s father, in her presence at a meeting in Namselling resorted to references to religion and Religious Personality. The Commission conducted two Hearings and investigated the case taking statements from a total of 18 persons who had attended the said meeting. As the allegation could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt and a person is innocent until proven guilty, the Commission decided to dismiss the case but the voice recording submitted as evidence and sealed under signature of the representatives of both Parties shall be held by the ECB until the completion of the Election Petition Period in case of an Election Petition.
Case # 25. The PDP Bumthang Dzongkhag Coordinator, Jampel, lodged on 03/07/2013, a case, as endorsed by the PDP Candidate Chhumig_Ura alleging that the DPT President made defamatory and vindictive personal statement against Thogmey Yeshi (Owner of Druk Yathra) which was forwarded to the CEDSB on 05/07/2013. Based on the evidence available and the response to the Show-Cause Notice by the DPT President, the Commission decided that the DPT President shall make a public statement that he was not referring to Thogmey Yeshi. Any Party not satisfied with this decision may appeal as an Election Petition.
Case # 26. The Zhemgang DEDSB on 01/07/2013 dismissed the case filed on 28/06/2013 by the PDP Supporter Sherab Wangdi and Gyembo Tshering against DPT Candidate and Pema Tashi for ferrying voters during the visit of DPT President at Buli due to lack of evidence.
Case # 27. Gyeltshen and Sangay Jamtsho, endorsed by Yeshi Zimba, DPT Officiating President, filed a case on 06/07/2012 against Rinchen Thinley, Retired RBP Colonel and Tenzin, Monggar TV Cable Proprietor of Monggar alleging that they resorted to Royal Patronage and threatened them. The investigation proved inconclusive as the defendants refuted making any such threats and their alibi for the day was corroborated. As there was no further evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the case was dismissed by the Commission.
Case # 28. Sangay Yeshey, DPT’s Coordinator filed a case, endorsed by Kengkhar_Weringla DPT Candidate, on 06/07/2013 alleging that a threatening call had been received from an “Unknown” number claiming to be Dorji Gyeltshen from Gokha. Upon enquiry from Bhutan Telecom, it was found that the call was made from the telephone number in the name of a Karma Tenzin of Thimphu who denied knowledge of the call, the call recipient or any reason to make such a call. The case would be forwarded to the concerned agency for appropriate action. However, the ECB issued the Notification No. ECB/CEC/2013/104 dated 10th of July 2013, in conjunction with Case # 33, was issued to inform the public and all concerned that it is possible to trace calls and therefore not to engage in such activities. At the same time, through the Notification, the public were reminded and reassured that the Secrecy of their Vote would be upheld and to cast their Ballot freely and confidently.
Case # 29. Chorten Tshering, DPT Trashi Yangtse Dzongkhag Coordinator, filed a case on 06/07/2013 against Thukten Tshering, PDP Candidate Boomdeling, alleging that he bribed Kencho Zangmo by giving her Nu.2,500/-. The Commission, on 9th of June 2013, dismissed the case as it had not been endorsed by the Candidate, President or the President’s representative and the initial investigation proved inconclusive.
Case # 30. Colonel Rinchen Thinley (Retired), Tenzin, Sangay Wangdi, former Royal Advisory Councilor and former Saling Chimi Sonam filed a case on 08/07/2013 against Karma Lhamo, Monggar DPT Candidate and Dorji Leki, DPT Dzongkhag Coordinator alleging that they told the public that they were in police custody. The ECB, vide its letter No. ECB/CEC-CEDSB/2013/101 dated 10th of July 2013 decided and communicated, on this case as well as Case # 32, that in view of the paucity of time to carry out field verification, the cases are being closed but if they wish, they may appeal further during the Election Petition Period.
Case # 31. Tenzin Dorji, PDP Dagana Dzongkhag Coordinator filed a case on 08/07/2013, alleging that Hemant Gurung, DPT’s Lhamoi Zingkha_Tashiding Candidate distributed cigarettes and bribed some individuals. Field investigation and statement received from the Candidate revealed that he had given Nu.500/- each to Bir Man Shangba and his wife and to Kitab Singh Shangden and his wife with the justification that the men are DPT members and the wives for their hospitality. In this regard, it is found that only Kitab Singh Shangden is a registered member of the DPT. Therefore the Commission decided to forfeit Nu.1,500/- given to the non-members along with a fine of 50% of the amount received and warn and impose a fine of Nu.3,000/- on Hemant Gurung for the misconduct.
Case # 32. Ugyen Wangdi, DPT Monggar Demkhong Coordinator, endorsed by Karma Lhamo, DPT Monggar Candidate, filed a case on 09/07/2013 against Kunzang Lhamo, Chhaling Gewog alleging that she was spreading rumours of DPT dissolving and quoting Royal Patronage. The ECB’s decision is as mentioned in Case # 30 above.
Case # 33. Thinley Palden Dorji, DPT Kanglung_ Samkhar_ Udzorong Candidate, lodged a complaint that two calls were received from “Unknown” numbers: one warning her for allegedly stopping people from attending the public meeting of the PDP President and in the other call it is alleged that the caller claimed to be an election official and told the call recipient to stop engaging and moving around in the village. The first call was traced to Pema Wangdi of Kanglung while there is no record of the second call. As highlighted in Case # 28, the ECB issued the Notification to caution and prevent such calls from being made based on anonymity and to reassure Voters on the Secrecy of their Vote.
Case # 34. Sonam Penjore, DPT Vice President filed a case on 09/07/2013 against Sherab Jamtsho, PDP Nganglam Candidate, alleging that the statements made during the live BBS TV debate on 8th July 2013 were untrue and defamatory. In this regard, the Commission accepted the explanation tendered by Sherab Jamtsho that it was a question asked rather than a statement as the issue had been raised in an earlier TV Show and had not been answered clearly.
Case # 35. The decision of the CEDSB on the Case # 11 was appealed to the Election Commission of Bhutan by the DPT on the grounds that the decision was non-commensurate with the offence. The Commission, after reviewing the facts of the matter and decision of the CEDSB, decided to uphold the decision of the CEDSB.
Case # 36. The decision of the CEDSB on the Case # 14 was appealed to the Election Commission of Bhutan by the DPT on the grounds that the statements made by the PDP Candidate of Sombaykha Demkhong at the live BBS Public Debate indicate that Nima Tshering was his representative in the Demkhong and therefore doubts that the money was given by the Candidate. The Commission, after reviewing the facts of the matter and decision of the CEDSB, decided to uphold the decision of the CEDSB.
Case # 37. The Kuensel and the Bhutan Observer lodged complaints related to the DPT election advertisement in The Journalist which published 39,000 copies of the paper which otherwise prints only around 2,500 copies and is found to be irregular. The case is currently under investigation and needs follow-up with the relevant agencies.
The general public and all stakeholders are reminded that an appeal against the decision of the Election Commission may be appealed through an Election Petition during the Election Petition Period.
Secretary to the Commission
Election Commission of Bhutan
11th of July 2013