Civil Society Participation

Excerpt from Final Report: National Assembly Elections, 24 March 2008, European Union Election Observation Mission, May 21 2008

In Bhutan, civil society organizations are forbidden by law from engaging in activities directly related to elections. There are very few civil society organizations in the country, and none that deal with human rights or political issues.

Civil society organizations have a legitimate and fundamental role to play in elections as representatives of citizen interests, and their absence in the election process deprived the Bhutanese voters of a key source of independent information. In particular, the restriction on the possibility for civil society groups to observe the election process is contrary to international best practices, which recognizes the role independent domestic observers have played around the world in safeguarding election integrity. While the “National Observers” appointed by the Election Commission of Bhutan have contributed positively to the election process, they are not independent from the election administration and therefore cannot legitimately act as impartial observers of the process.

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