The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) released Nu 19.05mn as election campaign fund for the National Council (NC) candidates last week.
The candidates, 127 of them, are entitled to get Nu 150,000 each, the campaign expenditure ceiling, which they cannot exceed.
The council candidates will use the amount availed through a separate bank account for goods and services for direct campaign purposes such as vehicle hire, mileage, porter-pony, daily subsistence allowance for themselves and election representatives, utilities, miscellaneous and rental of office space and public halls.
However, the election commission will bear expenditure for campaign materials like brochures, posters and banners.
The candidates have to submit the materials to the commission which will approve and print for them.
The head of the Civic and Electoral Department and also the spokesperson, Phub Dorji said that the campaign fund was increased to Nu 150,000 from Nu 130,000 in the previous elections because of inflation and increase in expenditure.
“The campaign fund allotted may increase every five years depending on the inflation rate in the country,” said Phub Dorji.
Phub Dorji said that every week, candidates have to make a receipt and bill showing where they used the money and the election observers have to verify the bill.
Meanwhile, the commission has allocated a total amount of Nu 250mn for the 2018 council elections.
The commission authorities said they are making a conscious effort and adopting measures to cut costs as far as possible.
Phub Dorji said that they are hoping that the allocated budget will be enough for the 2018 elections. “If the expenses exceed the budget, the government may have to chip in.”
According to the election commission records, in 2008, the total council expenditure was Nu 99.4mn and in 2013 the total expenditure was Nu 148mn.
In 2008, the major chunk of the amount went into paying the election officers, polling officers and security personnel, who were involved in the conduct of the election.
Similarly, in the 2013 elections, most of the budget was spent on travel of election officers, polling officers and security personnel, which cost around Nu 63.3mn.
This time, there will be over 4,600 people deployed for the council elections, not including the election commission people and security personnel. There will be 866 polling stations and 64 polling booths across the country.
“In each polling station and polling booth there will be a minimum of five people deployed excluding the security personnel,” said Phub Dorji.
These polling officers will be paid travel and daily allowance for an average of seven days each.
Within 30 days of the poll day, the candidates have to settle all the accounts with the commission along with the bank transactions.
Phub Dorji said it is not necessary for the candidates to use up all their budget.
According to him, in 2013, some of the candidates refunded the campaign fund.
In the 2013 elections, the election commission released slightly over Nu 8.7mn as campaign fund. Each of the 67 candidates then were given Nu 130,000. In the first council elections in 2008, the commission released Nu 100,000 for each 52 candidates, which ran into Nu 5.2mn as campaign fund.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu