ECB’s new rules quash hopes of young political aspirants

The Election Commission of Bhutan (Pic: ECB)

KARMA CHIMI | Thimphu

The election commission’s new regulation on minimum experience criteria has quashed the dreams of young political aspirants in the country.

University graduates who have not served the public/private sector for the required number of years and wish to join political parties or contest in the National Council (NC) elections will now be disqualified.    

Though the new rule is touted by the majority as a good initiative, those who will automatically be disqualified because of the new legislation, and aspiring to contest for the coveted office of NA and NC, say they are unnecessarily being deprived of opportunities to start a political career early.

Section 4, of the Rules of Elections Conduct of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022 defines Qualification Criteria for Candidates standing for Elective Officer, in which it states, “Serving in an office in the public/private sector with exemplary conduct and performance for 5 years for the assumption of office in the National Assembly, and for 10 years for the assumption of office in the National Council.”  

Many voiced out that excluding youth on the pretext of their inexperience may lead to less diversity within the political system. 

One political aspirant for the NA from Gasa, Leki Wangdi, said that the youth supports new election rules on qualifications. However, with the new rules on experience, political windows for many interested youths are now shut. He added that he had the will to join politics but is saddened as he does not qualify by a mere three months of working experience.

A 2020 commerce graduate from Norbuling Rigter College, Benita Ghalley from Samste welcomes the decision of the ECB. However, she said that on the one hand, inexperienced candidates aren’t necessarily a bad thing for democracy, especially if it increases representation.

“If successful and potential candidates are interested in joining politics, the opportunity should not be closed,” she said. However, she added that the commission is introducing the changes for a good cause and one should respect it.

Praveen Ghalley, a graduate of the College of Science and Technology in electrical engineering would not qualify for the 2023 NA election. It has been just two-three years for he to work in the private sector.

Parveen said that while the new rules are a good move, it also curtails opportunities for many who do not qualify. He said ECB should instead help to galvanize young candidates to run for office.

One aspiring candidate for the NC post, Tshewang Choden, 28 from Gelephu said that her long political dream since high school has been shattered. After graduating from the College of Language and Culture Studies, she had been pursuing her masters in India.

She has a view that age and numbers of working years are not the only yardsticks to measure the maturity of a person. She instead argues that youth and adults should collaborate to strive for better democracy, and added that today’s youth are different and get matured at an early age.

“The new rule has shattered my long-awaited dream and it must have discouraged others as well,” she said.

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