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Of pledges and manifestos

By Sangay Rabten, Thimphu

With the election campaign in full swing, the Electionย Commission of Bhutanย (ECB) has to remind politicalย parties about what theyย pledge to the people.ย Following a complain from the Druk PhuensumTshogpa (DPT), the commission had reminded the two parties to not make pledges out of their manifesto.DPT made a verbal complain to the Commission for Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) candidates for making pledges outside their manifesto as submitted in the Letter of Intent on 23 August. Candidate of DNT Gangzur-Minjey, Kuengaย Penjor, Tandin Dorji ofย Lingmukha_Toedwang andย Jigme Dorji of Monggar_Dramedtse, during theย public debate pledged carย quota of Nu.1.5 million toย each family for their first car.ย During the debate, DPTย candidate of Dramedtse_Ngatshang, Ugyen Wangdi questioned his opponentย Jigme Dorji about DNTโ€™sย vehicle quota which is notย in the party manifesto asย submitted to the ECB in theย Letter of Intent. He said,ย โ€œMaking pledges whichย is not in the manifesto isย unlawful.โ€ย Speaking to Bhutanย Today, he said that he hadย suggested to ECB to look into the matter otherwiseย DPT would also make sameย pledge, if they are allowed.ย Ugyen Wangdi added thatย there are almost 158,000ย regular households inย Bhutan as per the Populationย and Housing Census (PHCB)ย of 2017 and if it is multiplied,ย it comes around Nu.23.7billion. โ€œI wonder fromย where DNT will manageย that much money,โ€ he saidย expressing his concern if that many vehicles areย imported, there will be moreย outflow of money whichย will bring trade deficitย affecting countryโ€™s economyย besides air pollution andย other related problemsย by increasing number ofย vehicles.

DPTโ€™s candidate from Khengkhar_We r i n g l aย constituency, Rinzin Jamtsho, also shared hisย view of DNT making pledgesย beyond their manifesto.ย He alleged his contestantย Kuenga Penjor of pledgingย to make underground road,ย which is not mentioned inย the manifesto.ย Clarifying to Bhutanย Today, Kuenga Penjor saidย the tunneling project isย there in their manifesto andย he stated that tunnelingย would be explored for
Shingkhar_Gorgan road ifย all options were exhausted.ย Kuenga Penjor said, โ€œItย seems that people haveย not read our manifesto andย misunderstood the wordย โ€˜quotaโ€™ when we pledge.ย There is no need to specifyย quota where it is inclusiveย in tax action plan.โ€ Heย said that the word quota isย synonym of tax concessionย and DNT is not breachingย any ECBโ€™s law. He addedย that quota doesnโ€™t meanย that government will payย for buying vehicle but giveย tax consideration till theย ceiling of maximum Nu.1.5ย million of vehicle cost. โ€˜โ€™Itย is with the aim to help poorย to buy car by exemptingย from tax, bringing strongerย and transparent tax systemย to narrow the gap,โ€™โ€™ saidย  Kuenga Penjor.
The head of Electionย Department of ECB, Sonamย Tobgay said that there isย no such drafted act aboutย making pledges which areย not mentioned in partyย manifesto but requestedย the parties not to makeย any pledges which canโ€™t beย fulfilled to have free and fairย election.ย ECB have alreadyย notified the party leadersย to instruct their candidate,ย not to make pledges beyondย  the manifestos. The leadersย have agreed to work.

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