As disappointing as it may be the run up to 2013 elections will not see ‘familiarization’ of candidates and parties.
The fresh candidates and parties who are yet to get a foothold in their respective constituencies expressed grievances that the campaign period will be too short. It will be worse if the 2013 elections will not have a familiarization period.
Few party watchers said that there will be no ‘level playing field’ compared to the two founding political parties, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Expressed views delved on the grounds that in the 2008 campaigns there was no need for loud campaigns as people were already aware about the two parties in the first democratic elections.
Observers say that this time around it might help the new parties and candidates if the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) allows more time to campaign.
“Political parties can go for tours to organize themselves but campaigning will be allowed only during a period notified by the election commission,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dasho Kunzang Wangdi.
“Short campaign period is a reality. We have to use skillful means to be able to deal with such a reality,” said Sonam Tobgay, interim president of Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party.
Interim president of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, Lily Wangchuk said “For new parties, it is going to be very challenging. It would be nice if ECB allows us to begin and engage in consultative process at the earliest and also allow people to participate in political process”.
“People hardly know us in the village though we have been there for a long time. Sometimes it makes us think that politics is only for prolific workers as that is what happened to DPT with its seasoned ministers,” said a source in a political party.
For campaigning, the electoral laws of the country has a specific time period where campaigning would be allowed.
In case of the Primary Round it is from the last date of submission of Letter of Intent, in case of the General Election or National Council election it is from the last date of withdrawal of nominations up to 48 hours before the commencement of poll.
Just after registration, political parties are only expected to engage in electoral processes such as recruiting party members, setting up offices, working on the manifesto, collection of funds and strategies for campaigning in the electoral laws.
Meanwhile, both the registered parties and aspiring political parties are short of good candidates in many of the constituencies and are also reviewing the candidature of their candidates.
Chapter 14 Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008
Every candidate and registered political party shall, subject to any restrictions imposed by this Act or under any law, be free to conduct an election campaign in the manner deemed appropriate by them.
The election campaign shall be permitted to commence from the date of issue of notification by a Royal Decree calling an election as announced, or notified in the case of Local Government elections by the Election Commission and end forty-eight hours prior to the hour fixed for the commencement of poll for the election.
A registered political party may, on the announcement of an election by the Election Commission, announce the strength of its party based on leadership and membership, its past performance and issue a manifesto detailing the programs and policies it would implement if elected.
Puran Gurung / Thimphu