The level of allegations and political mudslinging now seem to have reached its precipice as the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has taken on itself to intervene. This, the ECB, has done in the form of a letter addressed to the two Party presidents of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The ECB letter says that political parties are becoming increasingly regional in tone and divisive in nature with unwarranted ranking out issues connected to national security, national language and citizenship, which are beyond negotiation for short-term electoral gains and political mileage.
These instances were evident from the various media reports, the media interviews of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) candidates joining PDP, media coverage of the presidents’ meetings, public debates, statements and references made by candidates of both parties and allegations against PDP candidate Norbu Wangchuk on regionalism.
As per the letter of June 21, disputes continue to be lodged in various dzongkhags every day. While this is because the electoral system provides adequately for recourse to law and justice, many of the case are found to be baseless and unable to hold water under proper scrutiny and investigation.
The ECB would continue to process the disputes and complaints lodged with the election dispute settlement system and bring them to its logical conclusions with due diligence. However, in the larger interest to prevent avoidable social acrimony, the ECB suggested that the two parties may also want to institute an internal review mechanism to prevent unnecessary litigation as these create avoidable mistrust and rancor in small communities.
“Henceforth, ECB will accept a complaint being lodge on behalf of a party or candidate only if it is found endorsed by the concerned candidate, party president or authorized representative of the president as per the party’s complaint review process,” stated the ECB letter.
The ECB also informed the presidents of the two political parties that any public statement in a common forum, public debate, party meeting or any other campaign events that incites and likely to foster regionalism by any candidate or party worker, regardless of it being stated to be “educated voters”, “refute allegations”, “rebut statement” or any other pretext, shall be viewed very seriously and legal action, that may include issuance of restraining orders or even cancellation of the candidature, taken directly by the ECB under the laws.
The letter also stated that the ‘honorable presidents’ of the two contesting political parties should exercise self-restraint, instruct, restrain, and advice their candidates, officers, party workers and coordinators including the supporters of the respective party in the social media ‘in order to ensure a political legacy that all of us can be proud of and wish to be associated with in posterity.’
Meanwhile, the general public is not far behind in all this to notice that the political temperature is intense and on the rise.
“Compared to the 2008 elections allegations are really serious in terms of intensity although the numbers are only beginning to accumulate right now, it will also most definitely increase as days go by. Both the parties should at least refrain from allegations that involve national values and sentiments,” a private sector employee Kinley, 29, said.
A graduate from sherubtse college Sonam choden said, “I don’t know why all these allegations are being tossed back and forth between the PDP and DPT. It would be better for people and country if they start to give more importance on ensuring fair elections in the country to prevent a multitude of problems that may ensue in future as a result of these activities.”
Private sector employee Yenten Thinley said, “These allegations are causing unnecessary panic and worries among people, especially the older lot, who believe the nation is a peaceful one that should not be characterized by such trivialities and it also affects the youth who have just started to cross the threshold of real life and it would appear to them that life in the country is turning into a horrible experience added to the joblessness, the lack of opportunities for higher education, etc.”
Tshering Dorji / Thimphu