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.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: Maung Zaw

A man sub­mits his bal­lot at a Man­dalay polling sta­tion yes­ter­day.

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