NC to finish term by 9th May 2018
The current government has around 17 months left in its term before the National Assembly (NA) is dissolved by 1st August 2018 to make way for the 90 day election period for the 2018 Primary and General Election rounds. A new NA must be constituted within this 90 day period.
The National Council, which is a permanent house, will finish its term by 9th May 2018 and the new house should be reconstituted by 10 May 2018.
For the National Assembly the 90 day election period would start from 2nd August 2018 which means that the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) should have to finish the entire election process on or before 30th November 2018.
The 2013 polls saw the former government and the NA dissolving by April 20th 2013. The Primary round voting to select the final two parties was held around 41 days later on 31st May 2013. After that the General Elections were held on 13th July which is 84 days from the date of dissolution and well within the 90 day period.
Based on the proceedings of the 2013 General elections it would be safe to assume that the 2018 general elections would be sometime in November 2018.
ECB Commissioner, Deki Pema said that the 90 days period is the total period of the election process, and it means that the ECB has to complete the election process anytime within this period.
Commissioner Deki Pema said that the NA has to dissolve by 1st August 2018 as it would be the day of completion of five years of the house since its first sitting where it elected the Speaker.
The current speaker Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo was elected in the first sitting of the second parliament on 2nd August 2013. She explained that the dissolution has to happen by 1st August 2018 otherwise the house would be going beyond its five year term.
Article 10 of the Constitution which deals with the Parliament in section 24 says, “The National Assembly and the National Council shall continue for five years from the date of the first sitting of the respective Houses. While the National Council shall complete its five-year term, premature dissolution of the National Assembly may take place on the recommendation of the Prime Minister to the Druk Gyalpo or in the event of a motion of no confidence vote against the Government being passed in the National Assembly or in accordance with section 12 of Article 15.”
Commissioner Deki here explained that the first sitting of both the National Assembly and national Council is defined in Articles 12 and 11 of the Constitution respectively.
Article 12 which deals with the National Assembly in section 3 says, “At the first sitting after any general election, or when necessary to fill a vacancy, the National Assembly shall elect a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker from among its members.”
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay told The Bhutanese that the government would complete its five year term and there would be no early dissolution for any electoral benefit, as it would be unethical to do so.
In the case of the National Council given that it is a house of continuity it cannot dissolve like the NA and get an addition 90 day election period.
So the election period of the NC will be within its five year term and the ECB will have to finish the NC election process before the end of the current NC’s five year term which ends on 9th May 2018. This would mean that the new NC should be reconstituted by 10th May 2018 with no break in the continuity of the NC.
The NC’s term ends on 9th May 2018 because it had its first sitting and elected its Chairman and Vice-Chairman on 10th May 2013.
Article 11 which deals with the National Council in section 4 says, “At the first sitting after any National Council election, or when necessary to fill a vacancy, the National Council shall elect a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson from among its members.”
The Commissioner said that it is too early to share the exact election dates for both the houses as the ECB would have to look at various things. As per the Election Act a Royal Decree would formally announce the election dates for both the houses.
She, however, said that the ECB would issue a general advisory soon giving the months in which the elections would happen to ensure that people don’t plan any major activities during the time. In the past there had been issues with certain religious gatherings falling within the election having to be cancelled or postponed.
In the NA elections in the first Primary round the interested parties file a letter of intent along with the names of the candidates which is scrutinized by the ECB after the last date of withdrawal. Once approved the parties that qualify would head into the Primary round.
The two parties getting the highest overall popular votes would head into the General Election round.
In the General Election round there is more focus on the candidates as individual constituency seats are up for election.
Again after the party and their candidates file in their papers the ECB would scrutinize them after the last date of withdrawal.
In the meantime the ECB would also be calling for postal ballot voter applications and registering them.
After a campaign period the final elections are held on poll day.
For the NC the process starts from the Geowogs where candidates are shortlisted for the final round at the Dzongkhag level.
The Commissioner said that for the ECB they did not want to make the election campaign period so short that voters can’t make an informed choice and at the same time it should not be too long as it would mean time lost and also would be very taxing on everybody.
The ECB based on its lesson learnt from the 2013 polls is expected to make certain changes one of which would be in the election debates.