Seminar participants question ECB on new rules

The ECB’s seminar held on October 21, 2022 for aspirants of the NC elections in 2023 saw participants raising questions on the new rules.

As the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) started its first major activity in preparation for the 2023 National Council (NC) elections with a seminar yesterday (October 21, 2022) at Thimphu, the morning session saw participants of the seminar bombard the ECB with questions pertaining to the new criteria for participation in the elections.

Talking about the 10-year experience for aspirants to participate in the next upcoming election, Ugyen Dorji, one of the seminar attendee said that the 10-year work experience requirement made by ECB is unreasonable and that such changes are very disheartening.

However, Director of the ECB, Phub Dorji clarified that the changes were made based on Article 23, Section 3 (e) of the Constitution of Bhutan, 2008 and Article 35, Section E of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan. The former says, “A candidate for an elective office under this Constitution shall: ……fulfill the necessary educational and other qualifications prescribed in the Electoral Laws.

Further, the Director informed that after the rules were out on August 29, 2022, the ECB received a request from the parliament on the possibility of informing the House about the changes. As such a presentation was made to the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NC, the Speaker and legal officer on September 10, 2022.

Another seminar attendee questioned the change saying the ECB’s announcement about work experience was delayed, underlining that due to the timing of the announcement, some civil servants who resigned to contest do not have the 10 –year experience. He said that if these people had known, they would not have resigned.

Further, another participant also talking about the experience required questioned if it is really needed or not. “Some have completed their degree, master, and doctorate but they refuse to work in the government jobs and have remained in the village for the past ten years,” he said, adding if they should be regarded as inexperienced or not.

ECB officials said that they are allowed to participate as long as they get a certificate from the concerned gewog administration, stating that they have served as farmers, for at least 10-years.

Meanwhile, there were others who supported the ECB’s changes. Several participants said that experience is required, especially when one has to take the responsibilities of the House of Review. An aspirant said, “The need for a 10-year work experience is not a bad decision as without experience it might be very challenging to deliberate in the house.” Another said, “The house is not a platform to gain experience but rather to serve the people and country.”

Additionally, right after the ECB made the announcements about the changes, several people had supported the ECB’s move. “Political parties will always scout for the best candidates and as such, the National Assembly (NA) will get good candidates. However, we have seen that NC candidates are elected based on relations and other aspects without even considering the capability of the candidate,” a senior retired civil servant said, adding that the NC requires seasoned and experienced people.

Meanwhile, the seminar provided aspiring NC candidates with information on the various stages of the election period; documents required for filing nominations; election campaign elements and procedures; common forum, public debate, accounting and expenditure reporting, including the new ‘Rules on Elections conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022’.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu