Both political parties in Bhutan, The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) nominated candidates from the ethnic Nepali minority (Lhotshampa), who are predominant in the south of the country. DPT nominated nine Lhotshampa candidates and PDP nominated six. Nine Lhotshampa were elected, all from DPT.
In practice the requirement that candidates must obtain a Security Clearance Certificate (SCC) may act as an obstacle to candidacy for some Lhotshampa. The practice of allowing voter education, campaign and election materials to be printed only in Dzongkha (the official language) and English is contrary to international standards for minority language use. Similarly, the conduct of candidate debates only in Dzongkha, even in areas where it is not widely spoken, inhibited the ability for some voters to receive information about the candidates. Candidate meetings and voter education sessions were permitted to be conducted in minority languages.
There do not appear to be any specific provisions regulating the use of language during the election campaign; rather, the general rules for language use in the country were adopted for use during the election process. As election administrators have a particular responsibility for ensuring that all voters understand the process and have sufficient information to make an informed choice, it would be useful to ensure that minority languages can be used for voter education and the campaign, in both written and oral communication.
Prospective candidates for the parliamentary elections must hold a university degree, cannot be older than 65 years, and cannot be married to a foreigner. Civil servants cannot be elected, either. The country’s monks and nuns – whose number is estimated at around 30 000 – do not enjoy any political rights.
Article 15, Section 4(b) of the Constitution and Chapter 6 Section 100(a) of the Election Act provides for an inclusive, participatory, and democratic, political process. Section 358 of the Election Act contains specific measures for persons with disabilities. The Bhutan Voter Guide is already available in braille, and the ECB intends to similarly translate all Acts, Rules and Regulations.
Bhutan Final Report, National Assembly Elections 24 March,2008, European Union, 2008, http://www.eods.eu/library/FR%20BHUTAN%2021.05.2008_en.pdf.
Bhutan and Its Political Parties, European Parliamentary Research Service Blog, 2014, http://epthinktank.eu/2014/11/27/bhutan-and-its-political-parties/.
Universal Periodic Review, UPR Watch, 2009, http://www.upr-epu.com/ENG/country.php?id=150#art_57