Party leaders uncomfortable with JYT’s resignation

While the NA Speaker said his decision on the DPT president’s resignation will be out in a day or two

Leaders of political parties in the country apart from the two incumbents opined that the nation and people’s interest should always come first. This, they said so, in reaction to the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) President Jigmi Y Thinley’s resignation news.

While party leaders indicated that they do not really endorse the DPT president’s decision unless there are valid reasons, they also said it was his individual decision.

Despite his assurance to public during the campaign period to serve as an Opposition or the Government, the former Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, who was one of the 15 DPT candidates elected in the recent general elections to form the Opposition, had submitted his resignation on July 31.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) president Sonam Tobgay said “DPT passing over the role of leader of the Opposition Party is an internal decision of the party and does not need resignation of the party leader – former Prime Minister JYT. Somehow this does not seem like a good ending for a statesman who has had such unparalleled shining career in serving the kings, country and people, and even leading the country in the last five years. Submitting his resignation is his individual right although it may not be in the best interest of the nation to come to an abrupt ending.”

“If DPT was planning succession, as they promised in 2008, the older ministers should have made way for the younger ones just before the election. That way DPT may have even won the election. Having said this, I respect his decision and wish DPT the very best in providing a formidable opposition,” Sonam Tobgay added.

General Secretary of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) Tenzin Lekphell said, “DNT’s opinion is that legal provisions must be followed. In the event the law and its provisions are not clear, this being the first case, the onus rests with the National Assembly Speaker to initiate and frame a system that will consider individual candidates’ reasons and genuineness and the implications that such decisions will have in our election system both in the present as well as in the future.”

“The bottom line is our country’s interest must time come first at all times,” he concluded.

BKP’s North Thimphu candidate, Tshewang Tashi who shared her personal opinion on the news said, “It is a huge disappointment. Moreover, it is sad as it comes from someone who has taken up leadership roles in the country for decades. It is as if he hasn’t thought of the precedence being set and the repercussions which is more important than the individual or a party.”

Tshewang Tashi who was the first civil servant to resign and join politics for the recent elections said there should be valid reasons for the DPT president to resign. She said if the DPT president was making way for the youth, he should have done it a long time back. “It seems not gracious at all on their part. When you stand for general elections, it is understood that you and the party are either going to form the Government or the Opposition, and one must be prepared for it.”

A political watcher in Thimphu said, “Jigmi Y Thinley, before the Poll Day assured that he and his party are fully prepared to agree to the decision of the people in this election and serve with sincerity in any capacity.”

He said he was sad to learn that the elected DPT candidates refrained from attending the Election Commission’s official certificate awarding ceremony, and the DPT president’s absence during the first sitting of the NA when all elected members took the oath of affirmation of office.

When asked if the president’s resignation would affect the strength of the Opposition party, Tshewang Tashi said, “The trust that many people had for DPT has been lost after their last convention. Their fifteen members are much experienced than many of us and we recognize their abilities. We only wish and hope they use their abilities and work towards regaining the trust of the people and in the interest of the country.”

Druk Chirwang Tshogpa’s (DCT) president Lily Wangchhuk said, “Our former PM has made valuable contribution to the nation over the last 40 years and his resignation would mean losing a very capable leadership, especially in the Opposition. We need leaders like him who can make meaningful contribution in the whole parliamentary process, and his resignation is, indeed, a huge loss in the Parliament.”

“However, if the decision has already been made, it must be based on some good reasons and we should respect his decision and his individual and democratic right,” she added.

Opposition Leader Dr Pema Gyamtsho, who is also the vice president of DPT, refrained from making any comments.

There are reports that while the DPT president has not conveyed his decision to the party, many party members and supporters are not very happy with the news.

The National Assembly Act only says a member may, by writing to the Speaker of the House if in session, or to the Secretary General if the House is not in session, resign.  But the seat of that member shall be considered vacant only if the resignation was accepted by the speaker. The Act doesn’t say an elected member cannot resign.

Without the Speaker in place, the application was handed in to the secretary general of the NA secretariat.

NA Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the decision will be made public “within a day or two.” He said he have referred various laws including the Speaker’s Act and Election Act among others. “I also need to examine the interpretation of principle of precedence,” he added, since it would be a “precedent setting” decision.

If the resignation is approved, a by-election then becomes inevitable as per Section 22 of the Act, which states that when the office of a member of the National Assembly becomes vacant for any reason other than the expiration of term, a writ for an election to fill the vacancy shall be issued within one month after the vacancy occurs and an election of a member to fill the vacancy shall be held within ninety days as from the date of vacancy.

Once the seat is declared void, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) would issue a notification calling upon the constituency concerned to elect a person for filling the vacancy as per section 577 of the Election Act.

Also, Section 579 states that unless the remainder of the term of the member from the date of occurrence of the vacancy is less than 180 days, a by-election should be held within a period of 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy.

However, as of now, more than the worry of who would fill the vacant seat, political observers said it was not a good precedent.

The Bhutanese couldn’t obtain Jigmi Y Thinley’s say on the matter despite attempts to do so.

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