The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has come up with a new set of ‘Rules on Elections Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022’ which has some new changes and additions in election rules.
The main change is in the qualifications to be a candidate for the National Assembly and the National Council elections.
In addition to the existing rules of being at least 25 years of age and having a minimum of a Bachelors Degree, candidates have to have served in office in the public or private sector with exemplary conduct and performance for five years for the NA and 10 years for the NC.
The candidates have to also satisfy the Commission that he or she is a person of integrity, good character and reputation, in accordance with the Framework for Assessment for Candidates Participating in Elections.
They must also have such other qualifications as may be prescribed by the Commission in the Framework.
A source said that the aim here is to ensure that political parties get good and experienced candidates, and the scenario of fresh college graduates with no experience or poor quality candidates becoming MPs is avoided.
In terms of manifestos the current practice is that political parties have to submit their manifestos to the ECB for approval to ensure it is within the laws and would not violate election rules.
The change here is a new section which says, ‘No political party or candidate shall announce or pledge, whether in a manifesto or campaign pledge or otherwise, any financial grants or projects without disclosing the means of financing such expenditure in any form or promises.’
In short no party or candidate can make any pledges in writing or verbally whose source of financing is not there or not clear.
Another new section says, ‘No political party or candidate shall make any unrealistic or unreasonable pledge or promise, whether in a manifesto or campaign pledge or otherwise, any fiscal or tax or financial changes which may result in reduction of government revenues, without disclosing the means of how the political party or candidate intends to make good such reduction.’
This essentially means a party cannot pledge huge tax breaks or financial promises that would severely impact the financial stability of the state.
The source said that aim of the two new rules with regard to manifestos is to ensure that political parties do not make irresponsible promises that bankrupts the country or puts it under deep debt that cannot be paid for.
An example is of what happened in Sri Lanka where political parties that promised huge freebies and tax breaks won elections and that resulted in a major ongoing financial crisis in the country which does not have money for essential imports like fuel, medicines, food etc.