ECB questions the DCT President and says it will take action if illegal merger happens
During a press conference held this week, the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), officially announced that after numerous consultation with all their candidates, coordinators, and key members of the party last year, DCT has jointly decided to deregister the party and ‘merge’ with Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT).
The party’s founding president, Lily Wangchuk said that this strategic move was desirable with their continued inspiration to rise up to the occasion and be the voice for the common people, women, and youths given their own challenges.
“DPT was the only party that welcomed the idea of a union after DCT’s deregistration and given the ideological similarity, the members of DCT jointly decided to carry forward its noble ideas, ideology, passion, and conviction and continue to represent the voice of common people, women, and youth by merging with DPT,” said Lily Wangchuk.
However, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) said that once the legal name of a political party is removed by the commission after deregistration, none of the deregistered parties have the legal right to talk as a party.
“As an Election Management Body (EMB), the commission needs to inform the general public when a party deregisters with ECB but the deregistered party has no legal right to talk as a party thereafter. In regard to the merger, the candidates of the deregistered party have the right to join other parties but a deregistered party cannot merge with another party and use other platforms to carry forward their party’s ideologies,” said the Head of the Department of Election, Sonam Tobgayl.
Sonam Tobgayl said that as of now, the Commission has not been officially informed about such agreements between the two parties and the acceptance by Druk Phuensum Tshogpa in regard to the union.
“If the other party has agreed without the knowledge of the commission, then that is not acceptable,” said Sonam.
He said, “Once we call for the National Assembly elections, and when the party (DPT) puts up its letter of intent with such agreements without the prior knowledge of the ECB, then actions will be taken according to the electoral laws.”
Lily Wangchuk, during the press conference said that joining forces with DPT could further reinforce and consolidate their combined presence and support throughout the country with good mix of professionals, ideas, strength, and gender. “Keeping in view the larger interest of the country and being surcharged and passionate about serving Tsa-Wa-Sum, we believe our union with DPT will help us draw on each other’s strength and help add more diversity.”
Sonam Tobgayl said if the scenario was such that the candidates of the deregistered party decides to join another party, there would be no conflict with the electoral laws but if the deregistered party decides to merge with other party to carry forward their ideologies and manifestos, then it is not in accordance with the electoral laws of the commission.
It has been learnt that Lily Wangchuk has been questioned by the ECB regarding such intention of carrying forward DCT’s ideologies and manifestos under the banner of DPT by way of a merger.
“We have also been in discussions with both Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and DPT. In fact, it was DNT who initially proposed the idea of three parties outside the parliament merging as one for the election in 2018. However, certain developments took place within their party and they felt that it might not go down well with their supporters, so they were more keen on having me as a candidate rather than as a party,” said Lily Wangchuk.
She added that a year ago, DPT also approached her to join their party as a candidate but after having denied on the grounds that she will not abandon her party to pursue her political interest and passion, both the parties reached an agreement after six months of vigorous dialogue among themselves.
“We will work on the possible merger between the two parties and there will be a marriage of our manifesto and we can still carry forward our ideology and passion. The only challenge was that one party had to deregister and given the fact that DPT has larger presence than us, we mutually agreed to deregister and come together to put up a strong team,” said Lily at the press conference.
Lily Wangchuk clarified that the speculation surrounding deregistration of her party is not solely on the basis of the ineligibility for the state funding. “We jointly decided to deregister our political party and consider the option of merging with Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) after deregistration for the given reasons that without state funding it will not be possible for DCT to perform effectively in 2018 elections, most of our candidates coming from humble working backgrounds are unable to fund their own campaigns.
“Without adequate resources, absence of rich supporters and nominal membership fees, the party will be unable to fund our election campaign in 2018; by merging with DPT we can carry forward our ideology, noble ideas and objectives, and we can prevent further fragmentation of the society and contribute towards more harmonious political environment,” said Lily.
However, after the ECB questioned Lily Wangchuk, she told the paper that it is not an ‘official merger’ between the parties and the very reason for deregistration is based on that.
On incorporating their manifestos with DPT, she said, “We will not be merging the whole of our manifestos with DPT. We are going to incorporate some of the relevant issues only. As I am representing women, I would like to raise more issues about women and youths,” she said.
Lily Wangchuk also denied having been promised any portfolio by DPT. She, however, confirmed that she would stand for the election as a DPT candidate from North Thimphu.
Meanwhile the ECB issue may not go away so easily because in addition to Lily Wangchuk’s numerous statements at the press conference that DCT was merging with DPT and that DPT had welcomed it, a public Facebook post by Lily reconfirmed the DCT’s decision to merge with DPT and that DPT was the only party that welcomed it.