Election monitor confronts UEC over by-election voter lists
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.