Elec­tion mon­i­tor con­fronts UEC over by-elec­tion voter lists

The Myanmar Times - - News - MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

THE Peo­ple’s Al­liance for Cred­i­ble Elec­tions is plan­ning to ne­go­ti­ate for ac­cess to voter lists ahead of the re­cently an­nounced April by-elec­tion, af­ter an ini­tial re­buff by the polling ar­biter.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties, elec­tion watch­dogs, civil so­ci­ety groups and vot­ers have crit­i­cised the Union Elec­tion Com­mit­tee for its han­dling of prior elec­tions, es­pe­cially with re­gards to the er­ror-rid­den voter rolls dic­tat­ing voter eligibility.

April’s by-elec­tion has been called to fill more than a dozen seats in the Union par­lia­ment and state and re­gion leg­is­la­tures that have be­come va­cant, or, in the case of six seats in Shan State, were not filled in last year’s vote due to in­sta­bil­ity in the town­ships.

PACE asked the UEC for the voter lists in Septem­ber but was turned down, with UEC of­fi­cials say­ing they would as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity for check­ing the lists.

“The by-elec­tion is still six months away but it would be con­ve­nient for us if we could get the voter lists now,” PACE ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said last week.

The by-elec­tion will be held in 18 con­stituen­cies on April 1, 2017. Nine seats are up for grabs in the Pyithu Hlut­taw, three seats in the Amyotha Hlut­taw, and six seats in state and re­gion hlut­taws, the UEC an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 11.

“We will dou­ble-check the num­ber of vot­ers in the ar­eas that are hold­ing by-elec­tions against the voter lists from the UEC,” Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said. “If we see dif­fer­ent fig­ures, we will re­port this to the UEC so that they can make amend­ments.”

UEC di­rec­tor U Thein Oo does not in­tend to give the ros­ters up, how­ever, at least not for now.

“It is too early to is­sue voter lists,” he said. “We have al­ready had the list [com­piled]. We will not col­lect voter lists again.”

“I do not think it is that hard for them to give us the lists,” Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said. “So, we will ne­go­ti­ate with them again. If we can­not get the voter lists from the UEC, we will not be able to col­lect the num­ber of vot­ers in time for the by-elec­tion. We will try to be able to col­lect the num­ber of vot­ers in time for the 2020 elec­tion.”

The ac­cu­racy of voter lists was a ma­jor con­cern in the lead-up to the No­vem­ber 2015 general elec­tion, with wide­spread ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties re­ported across the coun­try.

Omis­sions, the in­clu­sion of de­ceased peo­ple and mis­spellings were rife as a voter list ver­i­fi­ca­tion process was rolled out in sev­eral stages.

The cler­i­cal dis­ar­ray came to light at a time of height­ened scru­tiny of the UEC, amid fears that the vote could be rigged in favour of the then-rul­ing Union Sol­i­dar­ity and Devel­op­ment Party – as has been widely al­leged of the 2010 general elec­tion.

As civil so­ci­ety groups and the Na­tional League for Democ­racy, then the coun­try’s largest op­po­si­tion party, raised alarm bells, UEC of­fi­cials sought to as­sure the pub­lic that mech­a­nisms were in place to cor­rect the er­rors.

To the sur­prise of many, on Elec­tion Day, No­vem­ber 8, vot­ing took place across the vast ma­jor­ity of the coun­try with few prob­lems re­lated to voter lists re­ported.

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