LG mem­bers want state fund­ing dur­ing cam­paign

Business Bhutan - - Nation - Dechen Dolkar from Thim­phu

Can­di­dates con­test­ing Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (LG) elec­tions should also be en­ti­tled to state fund­ing dur­ing the cam­paign like that of the Mem­bers of the Par­lia­ment (MPs). This was one of the rec­om­men­da­tions that emerged dur­ing the 3rd na­tional con­fer­ence on women in pol­i­tics, lead­er­ship and gover­nance held last month.

Mean­while, can­di­dates to the LG don’t re­ceive elec­tion cam­paign fund from the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Bhutan (ECB), ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 4 of the Pub­lic Elec­tion Fund. How­ever, can­di­dates con­test­ing for the Na­tional Coun­cil and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions are en­ti­tled to a cam­paign fund of Nu 150,000.

Some LG mem­bers, dur­ing the con­fer­ence, said the ab­sence of cam­paign fund is the main hur­dle which de­ters them from par­tic­i­pat­ing in LG elec­tions.

The say they have to do self fund­ing dur­ing the cam­paign and the gov­ern­ment has also fixed the ceil­ing to Nu 50,000 that each can­di­date can spend.

Call­ing LG mem­bers as the bed-rock of na­tional gover­nance, mem­bers said the gov­ern­ment giv­ing fi­nance dur­ing the cam­paign will en­cour­age more par­tic­i­pa­tion.

The Gup from Tashid­ing Ge­wog in Da­gana, Nam­gay Pelden said the can­di­dates have to man­age cam­paign ex­penses from their own pocket and that it is very dif­fi­cult, adding that she had to ask money from her rel­a­tives dur­ing cam­paign of the first elec­tion in 2011.

“As we are un­em­ployed, it is very dif­fi­cult for us,” she added.

Nam­gay Pelden said ex­penses are mostly in­curred on print­ings, vouch­ers, brochures and travel since they need to travel from chi­wog to chi­wog and door to door.

Gup Nam­gay Pelden also par­tic­i­pated in the sec­ond LG elec­tions in 2016. How­ever, she said she could man­age her ex­pen­di­ture dur­ing the sec­ond elec­tions as she had lit­tle sav­ings hav­ing worked as a Gup.

“There are women too who are sin­gle and un­em­ployed. So the gov­ern­ment could fi­nance a lit­tle dur­ing the cam­paign. We are not ask­ing for an equal amount like that of the MPs. We would be happy even if the gov­ern­ment could at least give Nu 50,000,” she added.

How­ever, ECB main­tains that the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent for can­di­dates con­test­ing for the Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and LG elec­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the ECB, LG con­stituen­cies are lim­ited in size, in terms of ge­og­ra­phy as well as pop­u­la­tion, and the can­di­dates con­test­ing for the post of LG can com­mute within con­stituency com­fort­ably dur­ing the elec­tion pe­riod in­cur­ring less ex­pen­di­ture in terms of reach­ing the elec­torate and pre­sent­ing the man­i­festo whereas the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent for can­di­dates con­test­ing for the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

The ECB also main­tains that the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and LG elec­tions are two dif­fer­ent elec­tions. In the first case, the MPs are elected to rep­re­sent at the na­tional level and a can­di­date has to cover a con­stituency which is much larger, whereas LG mem­bers, in the sec­ond case, are elected to rep­re­sent at the lo­cal level and the con­stituency which a can­di­date has to cover is com­par­a­tively smaller.

“The is­sue on fund­ing of LG mem­bers dur­ing cam­paign have been dis­cussed time and again among the rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers prior and dur­ing the en­act­ment of the elec­toral laws in 2008,” ECB states.

And while the com­mis­sion makes ef­fort to en­cour­age women par­tic­i­pa­tion in elec­tions, it is also wary that a level play­ing field has to be en­sured at the same time. ECB main­tains that it has cre­ated con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion with­out dis­tort­ing the level play­ing field.

Be it men or women, the Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of Bhutan Net­work for Em­pow­er­ing Women (BNEW), Phuntshok Ch­ho­den said there is a need for state fund­ing for lo­cal elec­tion cam­paigns too.

She said the LG elec­tions have even hum­bler level of par­tic­i­pa­tion from the grass­roots in terms of so­cial, eco­nomic and ed­u­ca­tional lev­els.

“Cur­rently, with no spon­sor­ship by the state, yet ris­ing costs of even the most ba­sic of cam­paign ex­penses, LG can­di­dates find it hard since 99% of them hail from homes with lim­ited or no cash flows,” she added.

Fur­ther, the elec­toral rules cur­rently re­quire LG mem­bers to open a sep­a­rate bank ac­count into which a sum not ex­ceed­ing Nu 50,000 had to be de­posited to fund their own cam­paign ex­penses. How­ever, there was also wide­spread mis­un­der­stand­ing dur­ing the 2011 LG elec­tions when many thought it manda­tory to de­posit Nu 50,000 and had to spend the en­tire amount too, which was an au­to­matic de­ter­rent to con­test for women in par­tic­u­lar.

Phuntshok Ch­ho­den said firstly it is hard to find enough spare money to put away and se­condly the idea of spend­ing hard earned or of­ten bor­rowed money on cam­paign with no guar­an­tee of win­ning a seat seems un­re­al­is­tic and ridicu­lous for many fam­i­lies.

“This is more so for women in par­tic­u­lar, who de­pend on the will­ing­ness of their spouses to spare from the scarce re­sources the fam­ily would have,” she said, adding that BNEW will ad­vo­cate and sup­port the ar­gu­ment for state fund­ing for cam­paign dur­ing LG elec­tions.

The Lu­nana Gup, Kaka, said he in­curred lots of ex­pen­di­ture dur­ing the cam­paign and he had to some­times hire he­li­copter ser­vices to reach re­mote ar­eas of his ge­wog.

“The charges of he­li­copter are Nu 58,000. There are vil­lages where we have to walk for two days. We have to give porter and pony charges too,” he said.

Sim­i­larly, Dendup Dema, who con­tested the gup elec­tions in 2016 from Trashigang, said they have to de­pend on their hus­band for fi­nan­cial sup­port since many of them have no source of in­come.

“Even if we are in­ter­ested to con­test, some­times it’s chal­leng­ing for us to do so be­cause of hav­ing to self fund dur­ing the elec­tions,” she added.

The for­mer Chief Elec­tion Com­mis­sioner, Dasho Kun­zang Wangdi, has also pro­posed to the Na­tional As­sem­bly to give pos­i­tive con­sid­er­a­tion to pro­vide sup­port to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bhutan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.