Unlike the 2013 elections, the incumbent Bhutan National Council (NC) members who wish to re-contest in 2018 will not face confusions.
The members can re-contest without resigning from their posts.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) in an email interview has said that the current members’ term of office would complete on May 9, 2018. However, the election process will begin from February to ensure that the third NC is reconstituted on May 10.
All government agencies, autonomous bodies, corporations, private offices, religious organisations and the general public have been notified to avoid organising programmes and activities involving public gathering within the period of February to May.
The Parliament made it possible for the incumbent members to re-contest without resigning by amending the NC Act of 2008 in 2014. A provision was added as Section 15(A), which states: “A member of NC intending to participate in the next NC elections shall not be required to resign and may contest while in office.”
This amendment was made to ensure NC’s status as a continuous House that cannot be dissolved.
In 2013, ECB made it mandatory for members who wanted to re-contest to resign before the completion of their tenure. Members had argued that forcing them to resign before completion of the term would break the continuity of the House.
However, the re-contesting members will not wear their blue kabney and patang or gyentag during the campaign period to provide a level-playing field for all candidates.
NC members say that re-contesting while serving does not give them undue electoral advantage since they do not possess any executive power.
The Constitution states that NC should be re-constituted on the date of expiry of the term, which means that elections must be initiated and concluded before the expiry of the members’ term.
According to the Constitutional provisions, while there is a three-month period between the expiry of term of the incumbent government and reconstitution of National Assembly, there is no period in time when NC does not exist. This, NC says, was “intentionally designed” in the Constitution to provide stability and continuity to the overall governance process.