English | Dzongkha Sunday, May 26, 2019

State funding for political parties rears its head

Pema Lhaden, Thimphu
Nov 26, 2015

State funding for political parties rears its headThe issue of state funding for the political parties is re-emerging. During the recent meeting of the five political parties called “Political Parties Finding Solutions as a Bhutanese First”, parties’ members said they continue to face challenges, as they did, when the democratic process began in 2007-08.

One of their common challenges is to keep their offices afloat due to inadequate finance.

“I have always maintained that there should be some sort of state funding,” said Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s President, Dr. Tandi Dorji. He said the amount need not necessarily have to be huge but enough to keep the political parties going.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s office in Thimphu has four staff other than the Secretary General.

The state does finance the political parties but only during election campaigns.The parties can raise funds through membership fees and voluntary contributions.

But, the amount isn’t enough to manage offices, the members of political parties say.

“We have always said, during 2008 elections, that we need financial support,” said People’s Democratic Party’s Secretary General, Sonam Jatso.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s Secretary General, Ugyen Dorji quoted Denmark as an example. “They have a system where political parties are funded through state contributions. The amount of contribution is decided by the number of votes the political parties secure in elections.”

Ever since the talk of state funding for the political parties emerged, there have been resistance from different sections of society.

Even the current Prime Minister, when he was the then Opposition Leader, had said state funding for the political parties was neither legal nor logical or needed.

However, PDP’s Sonam Jatso says the election act can be amended to allow state funding.

The National Assembly, from the start, had deemed state funding for the political parties unconstitutional.
The Constitution states that the political parties do not accept money or any assistance other than those contributions made by its registered members…

“…We need to change the law wherever possible.” Dr. Tandi Dorji said.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s Secretary General, Karma Jimba said law is not something that is written on a stone and that it can be amended.

He feels state funding will help the political parties grow.

Druk Chirwang Tshogpa’s Secretary General, Ugyen Tshering said all potential contributors have been taken by PDP and DPT and that’s why it is difficult to run the office. “The alternative is to give the money after the elections.”

The National Council had done study on the financial situation of the political parties and had concluded that they do not need state funding.

The National Council had also said state funding for the political parties was unconstitutional. The Upper House had then provided nine recommendations, within the realm of the Constitution, to raise funds.

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