ECB clears DPT President’s doubts, issues warning to cancel candidatures if it finds evidence of coalition among PDP and DNT

DSC_0161 bwAfter an article published in a local newspaper titled “Can You Tell Me Who PDP’s Real President Is, Asks JYT,” came out in print last Thursday, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) issued a press release where it stated that it will review the status of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) as a political party after the National Assembly (NA) elections, and if there is substantiated evidence that there is, indeed, a coalition then appropriate action would be taken, which includes cancellation of the candidature and revoking of membership in the Parliament.

“As such, DPT and its president are, hereby notified, not to make any further comment on the subject of “coalition” failing which necessary legal action shall follow,” stated the ECB news release.

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) president was quoted in the local newspaper as saying that he would keep on harping on the issue of alleged coalition between People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and DNT, until the ECB or PDP are able to satisfy his query, and convince the Bhutanese people that there will not be a coalition government or a coalition opposition party.

The ECB press release dated June 17, 2013 says the ECB met with DPT president JYT, PDP president Tshering Tobgay, and DNT representative Dr Tandi Dorji on June 10, 2013.

The press release also stated that the main reason for calling the meeting was to address the issue of the perceived possible resultant coalition, in connection with PDP seeking to replace seven candidates with those from DNT, for the general election under Section 209 (c) of the Election Act 2008, which was necessary to be addressed with the relevant and direct stakeholders.

The gist of the proceedings and understanding reached at the meeting, as reflected in the Final Record of the Meeting handed over to the three political parties was shared to inform the general public on this ‘important’ matter where the ECB drew the attention of the meeting to the Section 5 and 6 of the Article 15 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan that essentially provides that the general election shall be contested only by the two political parties that are selected through the primary round, which is contested by all registered ad eligible political parties.

At the same time, the Section 209 (c) of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan provides the opportunity to the two political parties to replace their original candidates with candidates from the parties that have not made it to the general election. The two parties that did not make to the general election 2013 are DNT and Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT).

However, political parties have been cautioned against the misuse of this provision to affect a coalition in the Parliament, and even the government as the Constitution allows only two parties in the National Assembly of Bhutan. Thus, it is very clear that a candidate, who leaves a party to join another party, automatically forfeits his/her membership in the original party in favor of total allegiance and support to the welcoming party and its manifesto.

The DPT president asked to be convinced that there is no merger between PDP and DNT. PDP President said, “When the seven replacement candidates from DNT were being proposed, the discussions with them were carried out at the individual level,” and in addition he said, “No payments were made to original PDP candidates of these seven demkhongs.”

“The party had no involvement in the decision of the candidates to join the PDP, and it was purely the individual’s decision as the party told the candidates that the party cannot be involved, and it is up to the individual to make their own decision,” said the DNT representative.

Further, the DNT representative asked the DPT on the enactment of the Section 209 (c) of the Election Act, which has gained much prominence at this point of time, as DPT was the ruling party at that time. In response, the DPT president said as the question was a sincere one he would also respond with the same sincerity, in that the Constitution, Election Act and a couple of other Acts, have been enacted in the very first session of Parliament in a speedy manner without too much analysis and scrutiny, principally in recognition of the work done in the past to pave way for the transition to democracy, besides which there were very few members then, who had the experience in law-making.

All parties agreed on the need to ensure that the letter as well as spirit of the Constitution and laws are upheld, and said they are committed to abide by the laws at all times.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dasho Kunzang Wangdi acknowledged the assurances by all parties to conform to and act according to the laws.

He also placed, on record, that the ECB has met with the DPT team in the forenoon of Friday,  June 7, 2013 and in the afternoon of the same day met the PDP team which came to the ECB with a list of nine names of DNT candidates it was proposing to nominate as its candidate under section 209 (c ). The ECB gave PDP its “opinion” on Sunday, June 9, 2013, which was not a legally-binding document.

He stated that five names were recommended based on the ECB’s understanding of the intent of the said provision, while it could not object to the other four names listed, as it did not have direct legal basis to do so.

A letter from DPT on this issue was brought to the ECB by two of its members, (the letter subsequently released to the media by DPT), and it had been explained to them that the matter would be discussed in the party meeting that was called in the afternoon. No specific response from ECB to this letter was found necessary as issues raised in it were dealt in detail in the subsequent meeting attended by the DPT president.

The CEC reemphasized that, “ECB cannot be expected to police the parties nor it is desirable to do so. It does not intend to interfere in the everyday affairs of political parties nor would it base its decision on hearsay in the media and the community. It will respect the maturity and accountability of the leadership of the parties. In addition, however, it is committed to uphold the Constitution, and where warranted, it is determined to be firm and take tough decisions.”

The CEC, ECB expressed his hope that the parties that have been formed by responsible, committed and dedicated members of the Bhutanese society will carry out the electoral affairs lawfully, including advising their social network users and well-wishers controlling their members, supporters, and workers to be responsible toward ensuring a peaceful Second Parliamentary election 2013.

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