1. The Primary Election should be entirely between Political Parties. Identification of Candidates helps Party campaigning but it should not be made mandatory for Political Parties to nominate their constituency candidates to qualify for participation in the Primary Election. The Election Commission had come up with this rule on the eve of Political Party registration for Primary Election in 2008. I suspect it was to prevent a third Party registration that would compel the holding of the Primary Election. A direct General Election must have suited the interests of DPT, PDP and the Election Commission convenience. Thus Democracy in Bhutan was compromised from the onset.
Primary Election is for propagating the Parties and their manifestoes which will be evaluated by voters all over the Country. It is the opportunity for voters to choose their preference of Political Parties. During General Election, more emphasises are on Candidate preference. In 2008, there was no Primary Election but the way people voted, it was made a Primary Election between Political Parties. The scene in 2013 was different. The people voted for the Parties in the Primary Election and Candidates in the General Election.
2. Get rid of this requirement of mandatory nomination of 47 Candidates for Primary Election. It will resolve two thorny issues:
a) The similar case like DNP and PDP successful Primary Candidates teaming up under one Political Party banner for General Election will not be repeated again.
b) There will be no scarcity of Candidates for the General Election. Instead there will be a rush for Candidate seats of the two winning Political Parties qualifying for the General Election. There will be no need to relax rule on resignation of civil servants for participation in the Election.
3. The Campaign Election Expenditure limit has to be legally enhanced. The present limit is ridiculously low and being violated by all and worse Election Commission turning a blind eye. Otherwise both General Elections would have been declared null and void.
4. Asset declaration is good and disassociation from business operation or management a must. But why demand nullification of business licence when it is well known that the business licences are simply transferred to the next of kin? Its all so superficial and unnecessary paper works.
5. Make it possible for aspiring Candidates to participate in the NC Election. The National Council Candidate should not need the endorsement of the specific chiwog or geog after all the Candidate is to represent the Dzongkhag not just a particular chiwog or geog. Allow any and all otherwise qualified candidates to stand for National Council Election from their respective Dzongkhags. This will make it possible for the voters of the Dzongkhags to exercise their real choice. The franchise of all voters of a Dzongkhag should not be allowed to be compromised and curtailed by narrow politics at Chiwog and Geog level. The Chiwog and Geog can exercise their full power in the election of Tsokpa and Gup.
If endorsement is necessary to limit the number of candidates then let the aspiring NC Candidates prove support from a minimum of say 150 voters from within the Dzongkhag
6. No Vote Button: There is a need for registration of NO VOTE in the local and General Election if a voter does not like the Candidates presented.
7. Party Alliance. A re-look is necessary on the Party Alliance for the General Election. During the second General Election,the Election Commission with much reservation permitted successful Primary Election Candidates of DNP to join PDP Political Party to combat DPT Political Party. The merger of successful candidates of two Political Parties had all the hall marks of Party Alliance. It will create a level political field in amending the Election Act to permit Party Alliance or a third Party participation by amending the Constitution. It is damaging to the process of genuine democracy to leave room for Election Commission discretion in such pivotal criteria in the midst of a National Election.
8. Voting from Place of Residence. This should be feasible if EVM is used. It will save time and money for voters and therefore logistically encourage more voter participation in elections. It will do away with postal ballot for residents in Bhutan. It will ease political pressure on voters. If voting from place of residence is not allowed then disallow the use of EVM to prevent possible electronic tampering. The paper ballot and boxes are more general voter friendly and satisfying.
There are few voices advocating doing away with Party Tsokpas to prevent local acrimony. That maybe wishful thinking because political election by its very nature will cause grievances and intense diverse views among the communities. Democracy leads to Party Politics. And rewards, acrimony and vendetta are part of Politics. There is no such thing as clean or neutral Party Politics.
What is wrong with Bhutanese Politics is not the fights and disagreements between the two Political Parties to protect Party turfs nor the the rewards to arch supporters by the victorious Party. The evil lies in the concept of national sovereignty and democracy that is being unfortunately redefined. And in the long run the nation will face unpleasant consequences because the Political Parties have chosen to transgress into the otherwise the two sacred pillars of Bhutanese nationhood: The Sovereign status of Bhutan and the Throne.
I would like to express my admiration for the immense efforts made by the Election Commission and its team in conducting the various Elections. It was admirable. However, there are rooms for not just improvement in the procedures but also on general national directives for much needed enhancement of more beneficial process of democratic principles. It would be self defeating for Election Commission to cold shoulder any suggestion of amendment to Election Act.
Amendments should not be brought about for narrow political interest nor it should be so looked upon as such. Rather amendments should be for betterment of ways of doing things in the general interest of the nation. In a young developing democracy,there will be changes in rules and principles because Bhutan is entering a new political world after centuries of one powerful leader after another rule even before Shabdrung time. The objective of amendment cannot be to dilute the power of an Agency but rather necessary progressive changes with lessons learnt from actual practices.
I should end with wishing the Parliament Good Luck but on a second thought the Parliament does not need luck. It is all powerful to do as it pleases whether more pay and perks or realign national goal to individual path. So I will wish Good luck to the Bhutanese Nation and hope that more forward looking MPs are able to have their voices not just heard but have the impact translated into national Policies.
This is my submission to the Legislative Committee of the Parliament, the Political Parties and to the honourable Members of NC and NA and to all politically conscious citizens. It is an honest exercise of humble responsibility of a citizen when granted the opportunity.
Pelden Drukpa Stay Vigilant !