𝑷𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒔𝒑𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒄𝒂𝒎𝒑𝒂𝒊𝒈𝒏 𝒐𝒏𝒍𝒚 𝒅𝒖𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒂𝒎𝒑𝒂𝒊𝒈𝒏 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒐𝒅, 𝒂𝒄𝒄𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑬𝒍𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝑨𝒄𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝑩𝒉𝒖𝒕𝒂𝒏
According to the Election Act of Bhutan, political parties and aspiring parties can campaign only during the campaign period. However, politicians go for their constituency visits, cultural festivals in their constituencies, and other functions. And most people ask one question, “How can anyone guarantee that parties and politicians do not campaign during the above-mentioned visits?”
The general secretary (GS) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Kuenga Tashi, said it is the primary duty of elected members of the parliament (MPs) to stay connected with the people of their constituencies; to listen to their needs and assess the development activities.
He said that the party is not sure if constituency visits constitute a campaign. However, the GS said that the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) must have established clear parameters on it – what should not be done during the visits.
In the words of the GS of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) Phurba, people fail to differentiate between constituency visits and campaigns. “Constituency visit should not be understood as the campaign,” he said.
Phurba said that during campaigns, parties make pledges, and inform people about their manifesto related to the forthcoming elections. He said that nothing is pledged by the serving MPs during the constituency visit and the visit is their duty as elected representatives of the people.
Meanwhile, Vice President of the newly registered political party, Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa’s (DTT) Chenga Dorji (Ph.D.) said that the party has no say on this matter. He said that the serving MPs may or may not be campaigning. Chenga Dorji said, “The members may not be campaigning. Even if they do so there is nothing that can be done.”
Dr (Ph.D.) Passang Dorji, Spokesperson of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) said it is the mandate of serving MPs to visit their constituencies from time to time.
“The claim that they are campaigning during their constituency visits needs to be verified to see how the constituency visits could border on election campaigning. Constituency visits are mandated by the constitution, while the election campaigning period is determined by the Election Commission of Bhutan. The two are different in intent and form,” he said.
However, political observers in the capital and rural Bhutan say that despite the definition of a campaign, and differences in intent and form, what primarily happens and the desired outcome of a party or candidate is asking for support from people.
“It would be hilarious to even think that parties or politicians will not ask the people for their support. They will definitely not do it in public, but it will happen inside houses. I can say that there would not have been a single politician who has not done this,” senior media personnel said.
According to a private employee, Tandi Wangchuk, new parties and candidates lose on this front. “Political parties, especially the ruling and the opposition can go for their constituency visits. However, new parties and aspiring politicians cannot, until the ECB permits them. It is a big disadvantage for them,” he said, adding that the new parties will have to put in the extra effort.
“The President of DTT had mentioned in the media that recognition of the party is one challenge they face and it is because of the above reason,” he said.
A taxi driver had the same to say. “Some politicians indulge in playing archery when they are on visits. They sponsor the refreshments and using the ‘crude’ Bhutanese humour, they say directly and indirectly that we have to vote for them. There are no banners or pictures of politicians, but I do not think that only meetings, with banners hung are campaigns. The process of anyone trying to garner the support of others is a campaign,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials from the ECB said that if such things do happen, there should be sufficient evidence provided, without which action cannot be taken.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu