As per the latest record of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), about 126 people have registered for the ECB’s seminar for aspiring National Council (NC) candidates of the fourth Parliament. This is an increase of 98 from September 9, 2022, where 38 had registered.
While the ECB has not yet confirmed the date of the seminar (workshop), officials say that it will be conducted within this month. “The exact date, time and venue shall be communicated subsequently,” an official said. This will be one of the first important initiatives that the ECB is organizing for the National Council elections 2023.
The ECB notified the general public last month that the National Council (NC) elections for the fourth Parliament will be conducted early next year. The notification sated “In order to ensure that candidates are conversant with electoral laws and participate meaningfully, the ECB finds it necessary to hold a seminar to brief the aspiring candidates contesting the NC Elections, 2023.
The objective of conducting the seminar is to orient the aspiring candidates on the requirements for contesting elections and deepen their understanding of the electoral processes, specifically related to the fourth NC elections, 2023. Besides, the ECB wishes to use the seminar as the platform to respond to any query that aspiring candidates may have regarding the election.
Meanwhile aspiring candidates who have registered are waiting for the seminar. “I had planned to go for the Tsechu at my gewog. However, I didn’t as I was concerned that I would miss the seminar,” one aspirant said. According to him, it was not a campaign he was planning for, but something he did annually. “I have not missed the Tsechu for years, but this time, I could not make it,” he said.
Another aspirant said there isn’t much time and that waiting for the seminar has led to a loss of time. “I need to at least tell my relatives and friends that I am contesting. I also need to seek their advice. Talking through the phone is different compared to speaking personally and I have not been able to go to my village,” he said, adding everyone needs time to familiarize. “The incumbent ones can travel. Even the Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) is on a familiarization tour. I think that it is important for aspiring NC candidates also to go for familiarization tours,” he said. He added that it is not just for the benefit of the candidates. “Even people should know who is contesting from different gewogs of a district and vote for the one they think will best serve them. The ECB will definitely have campaign plans but I believe that there should be sufficient time for familiarization,” he said.
According to Article 11 of the Constitution, The National Council shall consist of twenty-five members comprising: (a) One member elected by the voters in each of the twenty Dzongkhags, and (b) Five eminent persons nominated by the Druk Gyalpo.
Besides its legislative functions, the NC shall act as the House of review on matters affecting the security and sovereignty of the country and the interests of the nation and the people that need to be brought to the notice of the Druk Gyalpo, the Prime Minister and the National Assembly. A candidate or a member of the National Council shall not belong to any political party.
Unlike the National Assembly, the NC cannot be kept vacant. Right after members of the current NC complete their terms, their chairs should be filled the next day. In other words, the NC elections have to be concluded to ensure that the fourth NC is reconstituted before the completion of the term, as the NC is a continuous House.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu