UMFCCI keeps rules strict on proxy votes
MYANMAR’S top business body – the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry – has settled a hard-fought internal argument over proxy voting, just days before the organisation holds a triennial election.
The run-up to what will be the UMFCCI’s second-ever democratic election has already seen heated debate over several issues, including which members can vote for which positions and whether sitting president and local tycoon U Win Aung should be allowed to run for another term.
U Win Aung ruled himself out of another three years as president last week, telling The Myanmar Times he would not put himself forward for nomination, which makes him ineligible for re-election on September 17.
At a press conference yesterday U Win Aung said the decision had been a “very difficult one”, but that it was important allow a “new generation” of business sector officials to take on the top posts.
The debate over proxy voting, however, was only publically settled yesterday. U Win Aung announced at a press conference at UMFCCI’s Yangon headquarters that the rules around proxy votes would strictly follow the constitution. This stipulates only registered companies – which have a company membership with a single vote – are able to use proxies, and only pre-specified individuals employed at the firm, such as directors or managers, can carry out the vote.
A group of individuals on the UMFCCI’s central executive committee (CEC), which included UMFCCI vice president U Zaw Min Win, were unhappy with such a strict interpretation of proxy voting. They said the rules risked preventing key company members that may be absent from Yangon or the country for some reason from being able to vote.
Voting must be done in person at the UMFCCI’s headquarters in Yangon.
“You can’t say it’s a free election if we strictly [interpret the rules] for proxies,” said U Hnin Oo, UMFCCI honorable joint-auditor, in a recent interview with The Myanmar Times. He and others felt that company members should be able to designate anyone they like as a proxy.
The rival CEC group, which included U Aye Lwin, one of the organisation’s secretaries general, was strongly opposed to loosening the rules. Some companies are no longer active, despite being registered UMFCCI members, he said, and the chamber had to be very careful about allowing such companies to pass on their votes through proxies.
One anonymous CEC member told The Myanmar Times last week that reaching a consensus on the issue was “a nightmare”. But the debate is now over and those in favour of the strict constitutional interpretation have won.
U Zaw Min Win said yesterday that although he had previously been concerned that some company voters would be excluded, he now felt that there was a risk that allowing free designation of proxies could lead to people selling votes for money.
U Win Aung said that he thought the constitution, which is now three years old, should be updated – although he did not specify how. He also said that changing the constitution can only be done by a majority vote at an annual general meeting, which takes place in August.
Just how much the ruling on proxy votes will affect the election is unclear. U Zaw Min Win said that he expected between 25 and 50 proxy votes in the election, and that perhaps 30 or 35 more would have been possible if the rules had been loosened.
Only 600 people are thought to have voted in the last UMFCCI election in 2013, but Htet Oo Linn, a public relations officer at the chamber, said some 1200 people had registered to vote on September 17.
They will elect around one-half of a 140-member of executive committee, with some 196 candidates having put themselves forward.
The other half of the committee is made up of automatically appointed representatives of various business associations. The executive committee then elects the CEC, which in turn chooses a group of around 20 senior management committee members – including one president and seven vice presidents.
UMFCCI chair U Win Aung (left) at a ceremony in March.