To augment the democratic process

Political parties rally around the ECB on new rules pertaining to manifestos and pledges

One of the main changes that the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has included in the “Rules on Elections Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022”, which came out on August 29, 2022, concerns manifestos and pledges of political parties.

With the new rule, political parties will be restricted from making unrealistic pledges, apart from having to disclose their financial sources. Replying to questions asked about the new rules pertaining to the above areas, members of Bhutan’s political parties say that they welcome the new rule.

Section 5 of the new rule deals with Party Manifestos and Campaign Pledges, with Section 5.5 stating, “No political party or candidate shall announce or pledge, whether in a manifesto or campaign pledge or otherwise, any financial grants or projects without disclosing the means of financing such expenditure in any form or promises.”

Additionally, Section 5.6 states, “No political party or candidate shall make any unrealistic or unreasonable pledge or promise, whether in a manifesto or campaign pledge or otherwise, any fiscal or tax or financial changes which may result in a reduction of government revenues, without disclosing the means of how the political party or candidate intends to make good such reduction.”

Speaking to Business Bhutan, one of the founding members of Druk Thuendrel Tshogap (DTT), Dr (PhD). Chenga Tshering, who is also Vice President of the party shared that the new rule brought about is a good move. Though the political parties may not be able to disclose financial sources, he said, “there should be restrictions.” Otherwise, he pointed out that parties are seen making unrealistic pledges without consulting the relevant stakeholders, whereby “there can be a possibility of illegal funding.”

The drafting member from the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Ugyen Dorji said that DPT’s pledges have always been realistic “with no exaggeration or freebies.”

He said that DPT’s objective is economic sustainability and prosperity and pledges are being made after consultation at the grassroots level, which is then routed through the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (DYT) to include in the Five-Year Plan.

He added that DPT’s pledges and manifesto have always been in line with ECB’s election rule since the start of democracy. “It is pledged after studying the people’s needs, sustainability, and country’s affordability-knowing the external grants.”

Secretary General (SG) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said he inquired with the ECB regarding the new Rules on Elections Conduct.

“Since the changes speculated are most likely to come through, he said the party wishes to share that the PDP welcomes the new proposed rules. “We hope this will strengthen the democratic process and ensure good governance,” he said. 

“PDP also believes that the requirement to disclose the funding source for the campaign pledges will prevent irresponsible political parties from making unrealistic and fake promises for votes in future,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) did not comment on the topic and said that the party would be in a position to comment only after understanding the new rule completely.

According to the ECB, the new rule will come into effect from August 29, 2022.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu