The resignation of Opposition Leader (OL) Dr (Phd) Pema Gyamtsho has once again generated much discourse on whether elected leaders or representatives can be allowed to leave easily by tendering their resignation in absence of clear legislation.
MPs have a history of abandoning their seats and the OL resigning is not a new trend. In fact, a precedent has been set. A total of three MPs have resigned since 2013 and interestingly all the three were from the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT).
In 2013, former Prime Minister JYT elected to form the Opposition sought resignation on grounds that he would like to make way for others to step in. Similarly in August 2017, a Member of Parliament (MP) from DPT, Kinga Tshering resigned after he was denied leave to study abroad.
Since the National Assembly, National Council, local government, and election Acts do not say that elected members cannot resign, the resignations were sought taking advantage of loopholes in the law.
The election cost was Nu 2.75 mn(M) for North Thimphu constituency, while for Nanong-Shumar constituency, the cost was Nu 25.4mn.
Lyonpo Wangchuk Namgyel, the National Assembly Speaker, said firstly one cannot stop an MP from leaving and also no law prohibits them from resigning. “There is already a process laid down in the National Assembly Act and if a member wishes to resign then he/she should be allowed. However, if the trend continues then it is not desirable,” he said.
The Speaker also said that the resignation of MPs has consequences. “We are mindful of the cost in the bye-election. The election happens once in five years and a bye-election somewhere in the mid is a concern. Coming up with a law to disallow MPs from resigning is not a solution and we should not do that as we cannot stop one from resigning. While we give the liberty for the MPs to leave, we should also look into cost repayment,” added the Speaker.
Meanwhile, Business Bhutan interviewed a couple of people who shared their thoughts on the resignation of elected members before completing their tenure and many were not in favor.
Former Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji said, “It’s not the first time. It’s the third time. I don’t see any problem with that. We cannot force anybody to be in a job if he wants to leave it. While MPs are expected to serve the people who voted them in, MPs have the right to change their decision. Morally it would seem that MPs resigning before their term is over are self vested, but it will not make sense to force somebody to serve in a position if they have other things in mind,” he said.
Also, he said that as for the present OL resigning to take up an important post like the DG of ICIMOD, Bhutanese should be proud of his achievement and give our full support to him.
“Bhutan stands to gain a lot by having a Bhutanese heading the ICIMOD. So rather than questioning the OL’s departure from politics, we should appreciate his capability to be considered for this prestigious responsibility and give our full support. If one MP goes out, it creates an opportunity for others. So why should we even think of avoiding such acts in the future? Let’s grow up,” he added.
A voter and a close follower of Bhutanese politics said, “I think from the election perspective it is indeed as many say-waste of state fund. In terms of a person’s contribution, it may differ. In some cases, an MP’s resignation to take up international roles can be more beneficial to the country than as an MP. An MP in a cabinet post resigning would be a very different story.”
A voter talking about the OL’s resignation said it is sad that Bhutan will lose a dynamic leader who has vast experience to some international organization. “Elected members resigning between their terms are not acceptable. If they were to resign then why contest in the first place? The present act should be revised,” he added.
Some feel it would be wrong to hold back members who wish to resign, while others are of the view that the only way out is to have a law on it.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu