Come the 23rd of April and the nation will once again go to polls to elect the second batch of 20 National Council members.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) announced this on Sunday in its notification where April 23 is the fixed date for the NC’s Poll day and counting of results.
This was in obedience to the Royal Decree on the 9 March, calling elections to the National Council of the parliament of Bhutan.
“The NC election shall be contested in each of the 20 Dzongkhags by the Nominees of the respective Gewogs or Dzongkhag Thromdes,” stated the notification on council election schedule, provided the nomination is accepted by the concerned Returning officer.
The 40 plus NC aspirants who declared their intentions in the media to contest the upper house elections and the incumbents will contest for the elections.
As was the case in the 2008 elections, 850 polling stations will be established across the country for the election. The ECB notification also states that nominee shall not be an incumbent National Council Member and incumbent of an elective office.
Those incumbent National Council members, who wish to contest the April 23 elections, will first have to resign from the house.
After that they can participate in the Zomdus organized to select gewog or Thromde nominee from 12 March.
A candidate who attends in person, and secures the highest number of votes at the selection Zomdu, called and conducted as per the Guidelines for selection of the Gewog/Dzongkhag Thromde Nominee for National Council Elections, 2013 shall be the candidate to contest the NC elections in that Dzongkhag.
With that the Nominated candidate shall submit the Nomination papers on or before 31 March, 2013.
Under the number of conditions to be met or to be fulfilled by contestants, official declaration including Non-Criminal Conviction Record-Cum-Clearance from the respective court of law is one.
Candidates will also declare their asset and clearance certificate for tax, audit and security. Apart from that, the candidate shall declare that he or she is not a member of any political party or has resigned membership at least a year ago and that should be verified by the Chief Election Officer.
All the submitted documents from the nominated candidate shall be scrutinized by the respective Returning officers thoroughly.
However those candidates who had filed the letter of Attestation in the earlier election need not produce again unless it is found necessary by an election authority.
Meanwhile the draft Electoral Roll for the 2013 parliamentary elections is being issued on 10 March for public inspection and to invite the public to file claims and objections by 20 March.
By 23 March, Electoral Roll will freeze and the nominations should be filed by 31 March.
The draft Electoral Roll is used for the purpose of polling at the Zomdus to select the Gewog/ Thromde’s nominee to contest the NC elections in the concerned Dzongkhags. Therefore 30 days before the date of poll no changes will be made to the Electoral Roll.
Meanwhile Dzongkhag Election Office shall continue to distribute the Voter Photo Identity Cards (VPIC) to those who are unable to collect it, even up to the Poll Day.
The Final Electoral Roll for 2013 parliamentary election shall be published and provided to the Returning Officers by 30 March and by 7 April the copies will be circulated among the candidates.
From 1 April the candidates will commence election campaigns.
In order to avoid inconveniences for voters to attend multiple sessions and provide equal opportunity for all the candidates, the Returning officer or the related coordinator shall arrange a common forum in each gewog and dzongkhag Thromdes.
Any other public meetings, door-to-door campaigns or rallies shall be subject to the provisions of the law, code of conduct and as per the campaign schedule.
“A door-to-door campaign may be conducted only between 7 am till 8 pm,” stated the notification.
According to Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, requested budget provision for the 2013 parliamentary election is Nu 500mn.
“The accurate expenses will be known after election gets completed,” he said.
A direct cost of Nu 332,500 has been estimated for each candidate for the council elections.
Therefore all Banks or financial institution should report to the ECB on any abnormal transaction of money by the candidate contesting for the elections.
“A candidate and all concerned shall neither serve meals or refreshment, nor pay the general public or voters for attendance of election campaigns or produce and distribute T-shirts and caps,” cautions the notification from ECB.
Regardless of being elected or not, the candidate must submit the campaign expenses to the national and micro observer for his or her scrutiny weekly.
Also any religious events such as wrathful practices and rituals will be prohibited in particular by the candidates or their representatives and supporters.
“We have media, national observers, micro observers and so many different office bearers are there to keep an eye on such issues,” said Dasho Kunzang Wangdi.
The NC candidates would also be keen observers of each other, so there are so many ways in which the commission will be alerted about unethical practices.
Besides security personnel and other government officials there are 4,651 election officials deployed to backstop conduct of the election.
Meanwhile the draft roll shows more women than men are eligible to vote for the council election. Total eligible voters for the upcoming election is 387,733 which consist of 195,667 female and 192,076 male.
Those who are not younger than 18 years as of 1 January shall be deemed to meet the minimum age requirement to be a registered voter. And those born on or before 31 March 1988 and on or after 1 April 1948 shall be deemed to meet the legal age requirement for candidates.