In preparation for the upcoming Fourth Parliamentary Elections, 2023, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) would like to notify the general public, political parties and aspiring candidates that it has reviewed relevant electoral documents and the provisions therein, and has put in place the new Rules titled, “Rules on Elections Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022.”
The Rules have been developed in pursuance of Section 3(e), Article 23 of the Constitution, Section 35(e) of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008 and Section 149 of the Public Election Fund Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008.
The main purpose of the new Rules is to strengthen the electoral processes and create an enabling environment for the qualitative participation in elections by political parties and candidates of good standing and suitable experiences, to represent the constituents in the Parliament and Local Governments. This is extremely vital, in recognition of the great importance attached to the sacred parliamentary duties and responsibilities that elected leaders have to discharge with a great sense of duty and service to the nation, and in view of the ever increasing and complex challenges that Bhutan will face going forward. It is to also ensure that elections in Bhutan are conducted with high standards of integrity, truthfulness, selflessness, loyalty and patriotism.
Recognizing the need for virtuous, capable and dynamic political leadership, capable of mustering progressive changes and/or reforms aimed at fulfilling the aspirations and wellbeing of the people of Bhutan, due importance has been accorded to incorporate provisions that address evolving issues, challenges and inadequacies that have been encountered during the course of the last three elections, and to give effect to and to continue the maturing of our democratic system embodied in our Constitution.
Keeping in mind the utmost need of being guided by the timeless principles of holding free and fair elections, the current review exercise reinforced the existing rules and also addressed the shortcomings. While the complete set of this Rules can be accessed from https://www.ecb.bt, some of the pertinent points covered in the new rules are recapitulated below:
- In order to fulfil the necessary educational and other qualifications prescribed in electoral laws and to ensure that the most able and qualified citizens are elected to the Parliament, all aspiring candidates are required to produce the following assessment certificates in addition to the other required documents:
- Integrity Assessment Certificate (IAC) from Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
- Non-Performing Loan (NPL) Clearance Certificate from Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).
- To contest the National Council (NC) and National Assembly (NA) Elections, in addition to the existing requirements, candidates must fulfill 10 years and 5 years of experience, respectively.
3. As part of its regulatory functions, the ECB has put in place more stringent mechanisms to scrutinize and prevent means of soliciting support from foreign sources by political parties or candidates in elections. To this effect, the ECB will collaborate with relevant agencies and set up appropriate frameworks/mechanisms that serve as effective interventions during the conduct of elections.
4. Switching of political parties by candidates will be permitted only upon obtaining prior written approval from the Commission.
5. During the non-election period, political activities, such as holding consultative meetings or carrying out research in the Dzongkhags/Demkhongs or meetings with the respective Party Godenpas will be permitted only upon obtaining prior written approval from the Commission.
6. An Independent Evaluation Committee (IEC) comprising of members from various relevant agencies shall be formed to assist the Commission in evaluating the manifestos/campaign pledges of political parties and candidates. The manifestos/campaign pledges must not be unrealistic or unreasonable. The political parties and candidates will be permitted to release such manifestos/campaign pledges to the public only upon obtaining prior written approval of the Commission.
7. Penalties have been revised to impose stringent punitive measures to prevent any untoward incidences leading to breach of electoral laws and associated rules & regulations, as well as resignation from elected office without valid reasons. The fines have been upscaled and revised from a minimum wage of 30 days to 120 days and from a maximum of 150 days to 600 days. Additionally, based on the gravity of the offence committed, punitive action could also lead to cancellation of candidature and/or deregistration of political parties.
The new Rules titled, “Rules on Elections Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022” is being adopted in pursuance of the greater national objectives of holding elections in a free and fair manner, curbing electoral corruption and further raising the standard of electoral participation.