The new parties have owned up to having passed politically-charged comments on the ruling party following the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) Secretary General’s who said that the new parties who are not officially registered with Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) have openly criticized government acts and polices.
In an interview with The Bhutanese last week, the Secretary General, Thinley Gyamtsho, said “It is not ethical on their part to do so, criticism if passed as an individual or concerned citizen is okay but without any formalities attacking the government seems unhealthy for a new democracy”.
The Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) spokesperson Tandin Tshering, said that before officially registering the party with ECB, it’s not wise to speak on behalf of the party to the government.
“We have decided that we will not blame anyone or comment anything on the government as our main concern is about our own party,” supplemented the spoke person.
Dr. Tandi Dorji, the spokesperson for Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) said that being an unregistered party, they have never criticized government but may have critiqued as an individual.
“Freedom of speech is the fundamental right of every Bhutanese and nowhere in the penal code or in the constitution does it mention that an organization cannot pass their comments” alleged Dr. Tandi Dorji
He also clarifies that they were not criticizing, in fact they were expressing their concerns on general issues and if it was a serious personal attack then there is the ECB which will take action.
According to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, the Election Advisory 2013 publicly distributed on 26 April 2012 by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has made it clear about activities that are permissible during Party formation; it includes engaging in healthy and constructive criticisms based on issues but to avoid personal attacks or mudslinging on any individual or entity
The Opposition, Member of Parliament (MP) Damcho Dorji is of the view that anybody whether its private individual or party can comment on Government’s action. “This is freedom of speech, only thing is that it should not be false and defamatory,” said MP Damcho Dorji
Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said, “It will be useful for all concerned that positive views and constructive statements are made so that it neither undermine others nor discredits oneself”.
The Chief Election Commissioner said “To avoid such confrontation among parties as well as between government and parties we have placed the Electoral Laws including the Political Parties Rule of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2009 and Election Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates which set clear legal context including penalties”.
A civil servant who regularly updated on the chain of events in the political sphere said that for a democratic culture, as long as it is not personal and it is the truth, passing comments is a healthy exchange of opinions.
“After all politics is a public affair and it needs to be debated” said the civil servant.