The Chief Election Commissioner of India Shri VS Sampath and Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi have signed a joint communiqué on July 14 at Taj Tashi, Thimphu.
The CEC of India had visited Bhutan on the invitation of the CEC of Bhutan to witness the conduct of the General Election to National Assembly of the Second Parliamentary Elections in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi said, “The election commission of Bhutan (ECB) has benefited immensely from the cooperation with the election commission of India (ECI) since and even before the memorandum of understanding (MOU) first signed in May 2006 and again renewed in 2011. Under the MOU, the ECB was able to send more than 100 Bhutanese election officials and stakeholders to observe the conduct of various levels of the elections in India which helped the ECB to gain firsthand experience of maintaining and conducting elections.”
He added that besides election observations in India, there were also study visits and training attended by Bhutanese election officials at the India International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Management (IIIDEM) inaugurated little more than a year ago. Similarly, visit by ECI officials at the elections held in Bhutan have resulted invaluable feedback, which have been assimilated into Bhutanese electoral system, processes, and procedures.
Shri VS Sampath said, “The Bhutanese practice of organizing common forums for election campaigns is a good way of facilitating political parties and candidates, as well as voters to conveniently conduct and attend election campaigns.”
He said such a forum could be further harmonized with the ECB’s volunteers for voter information, communication, education, and network of Bhutanese for a Democratic Bhutan.
He also said such initiatives by the ECB will enhance education and the promotion of higher electoral standards in the Kingdom through wider participation of the public for sustaining the momentum of continuous learning and innovation on matters of relevance to the Bhutanese democracy, electoral process, and incorporating new ideas for improvement of electoral systems and procedures in Bhutan.
To further strengthen the cooperation and relationship between the ECB and ECI, the two CECs discussed the need to actively pursue the cooperation and exchanges outlined in the renewed MoU, and also discussed the need to develop cooperation between the election management bodies in the South Asian region which has been materialized in the form of the forum of Election Management Bodies of South Asia.
The 3rd meeting of the Forum of Election Management Bodies of South Asia held in New Delhi in August 2012 under the chairmanship of the CEC of India, unanimously decided for the next meeting to be held in Bhutan. The CEC of India, currently the sitting chair, will hand over the chair the CEC of Bhutan at the meeting.
The two CECs have exchanged views on the organization of the 4th meeting scheduled to be held in Thimphu and agreed on the dates, from September 30 to October 3 this year.
The ECI will be sharing information on the development of a definitive work plan, website and logo of the forum which will be tabled for adoption in the 4th meeting of the forum.
During this visit, the CEC of India called on the Chief Advisor of the Interim Government and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye on July 12 2013.
The CEC of India also visited some of the polling stations in and around Thimphu on Poll Day on July 13 to observe the conduct of polls for General Elections to the National Assembly of Bhutan.
The CECs reaffirmed the excellent corporation existing between the two election management bodies and vowed to continue to strengthen the existing bond of cooperation and friendship to promote best electoral practices in the region.
The CEC of India has also visited Bhutan to affirm and strengthen the cooperation between the ECB and ECI.