Of pledges and manifestos

By Sangay Rabten, Thimphu

With the election campaign in full swing, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has to remind political parties about what they pledge to the people. 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, Kuenga Penjor, Tandin Dorji of Lingmukha_Toedwang and Jigme Dorji of Monggar_Dramedtse, during the public debate pledged car quota of Nu.1.5 million to each family for their first car. During the debate, DPT candidate of Dramedtse_Ngatshang, Ugyen Wangdi questioned his opponent Jigme Dorji about DNT’s vehicle quota which is not in the party manifesto as submitted to the ECB in the Letter of Intent. He said, “Making pledges which is not in the manifesto is unlawful.” Speaking to Bhutan Today, he said that he had suggested to ECB to look into the matter otherwise DPT would also make same pledge, if they are allowed. Ugyen Wangdi added that there are almost 158,000 regular households in Bhutan as per the Population and Housing Census (PHCB) of 2017 and if it is multiplied, it comes around Nu.23.7billion. “I wonder from where DNT will manage that much money,” he said expressing his concern if that many vehicles are imported, there will be more outflow of money which will bring trade deficit affecting country’s economy besides air pollution and other related problems by increasing number of vehicles.

DPT’s candidate from Khengkhar_We r i n g l a constituency, Rinzin Jamtsho, also shared his view of DNT making pledges beyond their manifesto. He alleged his contestant Kuenga Penjor of pledging to make underground road, which is not mentioned in the manifesto. Clarifying to Bhutan Today, Kuenga Penjor said the tunneling project is there in their manifesto and he stated that tunneling would be explored for
Shingkhar_Gorgan road if all options were exhausted. Kuenga Penjor said, “It seems that people have not read our manifesto and misunderstood the word ‘quota’ when we pledge. There is no need to specify quota where it is inclusive in tax action plan.” He said that the word quota is synonym of tax concession and DNT is not breaching any ECB’s law. He added that quota doesn’t mean that government will pay for buying vehicle but give tax consideration till the ceiling of maximum Nu.1.5 million of vehicle cost. ‘’It is with the aim to help poor to buy car by exempting from tax, bringing stronger and transparent tax system to narrow the gap,’’ said  Kuenga Penjor.
The head of Election Department of ECB, Sonam Tobgay said that there is no such drafted act about making pledges which are not mentioned in party manifesto but requested the parties not to make any pledges which can’t be fulfilled to have free and fair election. ECB have already notified the party leaders to instruct their candidate, not to make pledges beyond  the manifestos. The leaders have agreed to work.

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