Low voter turnout again mars MCDC election
Despite rowdy campaigning, a plethora of candidates and uncapped spending, the Mandalay municipal poll once again failed to elicit many ballots.
IMITATING their counterparts in some more long-standing democracies, citizens in Mandalay have demonstrated a distinct disinterest in local municipal elections, with initial reports of low voter turnout for yesterday’s poll to select six members to Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC).
“When the polls opened a few families came to vote, but by 10am numbers had significantly dropped off,” said an official in charge of a polling booth in Chan Aye Tharzan township.
“Either the public is just not interested in choosing the committee members, or the candidates and the committee have done a poor job in drumming up support and publicity for the election,” he said.
The elections were held to determine representatives to MCDC for six townships – Aung Myay Tharzan, Chan Aye Tharzan, Maha Aung Myay, Chan Mya Tharsi, Pyigyitagun and Amarapura.
Each “family unit” within the six townships was entitled to one vote in the election.
The low voter turnout for the MCDC election follows a trend of previous municipal elections in Yangon and last year in Mandalay, where one township’s vote was held twice due to low participation in the first poll.
A lack of understanding about the committee’s role or perceptions that it lacks authority were suggested as two possible explanations for the low voter participation.
However, “An MCDC member can influence the day-to-day life of his or her constituents, rich or poor,” said another polling booth official in arguing for the committee’s importance.
“I don’t think people realise that [MCDC members] can work to ensure good water flow to houses, regular rubbish collections and clean streets,” he added. U Soe Naing, a resident of the Aung Chan Aye ward in Maha Aung Myay township, was among the many who remained unmoved by such appeals and sat out the election.
“I didn’t give a vote because a municipality doesn’t have much authority or responsibility,” he said.
Others suggested different explanations for the low turnout, such as a lack of knowledge about polling locations or short voter registration periods.
“I went to register to vote but the deadline had passed and so I wasn’t allowed to vote. It would be better if more time were given,” said U Soe Than from Thin Pan Kone ward, Pyigyitagun township.
As of press time, the results of the vote were not yet known.
A total of 34 candidates were vying for the six seats up for grabs yesterday. The committee also includes seven unelected members.
A man submits his ballot at a Mandalay polling station yesterday.