In the final hearing on 23 April, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) rebutted Chheku Drukpa’s charges against the Commission’s decision to disqualify Druk Gaki Tshogpa’s registration as a political party in the High Court.
A Senior Legal Officer of the Election Commission, Sonam Dorji, said, “Election Commission disqualifying registration of DGT as a political party was in compliance with the Electoral Law and the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, which states that while registering as a political party, the party shall submit a list of registered members.”
DGT’s president, Chheku Drukpa, however, argued that the applicant party is required to submit a name of registered members from each dzongkhag and the membership of a political party should be broad- based.
According to Sonam Dorji, ECB said the membership of a political party should be broad-based, meaning that the political party should have a member and a probable candidate in all the 47 constituencies.
Sonam Dorji said, “The applicant party submitted a final list of 308 registered members. However, irregularities in 29 cases were found with names not in electoral roll, names of religious personalities and mismatch of name and constituency. Also there were no members in two constituencies.”
ECB said they received a final list of 25 potential candidates of DGT, out of which, two candidates are not registered members of the party and one appears to be a different person, of a different gender.
The commission lawyer further said, “There are no potential candidates for half of the 47 constituencies. In terms of the profile of the candidates in the list submitted, it is found that 20 are in the 25 to 35 years age group; 4 between 35 to 45 years and 1 is a 46-year old with no person of public standing and demonstrated experience of leading a government or a public office or an established business.”
Chheku Drukpa replied, “There is no law stating that this number of contestants should be there while registering. We just applied to get registered. We did not apply to run for elections. There’s no point in talking about the potential of the candidates while registering. And being a president of the party, I cannot accept ECB’s justification on disqualifying registration of DGT as a political party. I will fight and if judgment is in favor of ECB, I shall appeal to the Supreme Court.”
Chheku Drukpa in its interview to The Bhutanese said, “In an attempt to discredit our registration, ECB pointed out on our party ideology saying that the ideology is incomplete or not good enough. What’s more important than an ideology is the party charter, and a party ideology may never capture everything that the party stands for. Even otherwise, whatever required is well included in other chapters or articles of the party charter.”
He said, “We have been unfairly denied something that we truly deserved. It is very sad that the democracy house which is supposed to facilitate democracy is instead functioning otherwise, by going to the extent of breaking the provisions of the sacred laws of the land.”
DGT filed a case with Election Commission on 24 March. The High Court will pass the judgment on the case after close examination and views from both the parties.