Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – With just 13 days left for parties to submit candidate names to the junta’s electoral body, lack of funds has driven many to reduce the number of contestants to enter Burma’s first elections in 20 years on November 7, party leaders say.
The junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission (UEC), on Friday announced the election dates, designated constituencies for parliament and called on political parties to submit their candidate lists between August 16 and August 30. The period was too short for the political parties and was causing them problems, the leaders said.
“For our party, only the rich can be candidates because of the short time period [allowed]. Most of the potential candidates don’t have money. It’s very difficult to collect funds”, Democratic Party (Myanmar) chairman Thu Wai told Mizzima.
At first, the party had aimed to find about 200 candidates to stand in the upcoming polls, but the party needed to reduce the numbers of the candidates because every candidate needed to pay 500,000 Kyat (about US$500) to the junta’s electoral commission.
The Democratic Party (Myanmar) will contest in the Irrawaddy, Mandalay, Rangoon and Tenasserim divisions and Mon and Arakan states.
Rakhine Nationals Progressive Party executive member Tha Hla Aung, who will contest the Pouktaw constituency of Arakan State, said: “I must ask for 500,000 Kyat (about US$500) from my family. And I need to spend about one million Kyat for the electoral campaign. My party cannot give that amount of money.”
Similarly, Nyo Min Lwin – the Peace and Diversity Party (PDP) chairman, who lives in Thingangyun Township in Rangoon but will contest a seat in Pyinmana Township, Mandalay – said that although he estimated he would need about 1.5-2 million Kyat ahead of the election, he lacked the 500,000 Kyat (about US$500) to register as a candidate.
In keeping with section 16 of the junta’s party registration laws, a party needs to contest in at least three constituencies for it to survive, so PDP first vice-chairman Sandar Oo will contest in Bogalay Township, Irrawaddy Division, general secretary Nay Myo Wai will stand in Mingaladon Township, Rangoon and joint general secretary Aung Myo Oo will contest in Kyeemyindaing Township, Rangoon.
Further examples of party poverty were described by 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) vice-chaiman Than Oo, who said that most parties were in a state of chaos because of the time constraints and that his party had also encountered financial problems. They were forced to rethink which of their 100 nominated candidates should stand.
Some candidates even have to front their own fees. National Democratic Force (NDF) candidate Khin Maung Yi, who will contest in the Ahlone constituency in Rangoon Division, would deposit 500,000 Kyat to the commission with his own money, he said.
From money limits to time, parties are also railing against the short period they will be allowed in their bids to win electorates over. Electoral rules state every party may withdraw their lists of standing candidates before September 3, and they can then start campaigning, but this leaves them only two months to conduct campaigns.
Thu Wai, the former chairman of the dissolved Democracy Party, which stood in the 1990 elections, and a former political prisoner of the ruling military junta, said the period assigned to conduct electoral campaigns was very short.
“In the 1990 election, we had enough time … We could conduct campaigning freely and did not need to rush as he had about one year to out on the hustings for the 1990 election”, he said.
People did not like the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), so the more time allowed other parties to conduct the electoral campaigns, the less votes the USDP would win, which was why the UEC had limited the time period, Thu Wai said.
PDP chief Nyo Min Lwin, who was born in Pyinmana, two miles (3.2 kilometres) east of the junta’s capital of Naypydiaw, said that his main rival in his Pyinmana constituency was from the USDP, but that he was unconcerned because he had siblings and relatives in the town. He had conducted electoral campaigns there in 1990, so he had a lot of experience, he said adding that his party had five candidates.
“I’ll visit to villages on a motorcycle to conduct electoral campaigning. I’ll circulate pamphlets about my political philosophies, biographies and future plans for our country,” he said. “Moreover, I’ll talk to them in person. But, I don’t have money to build stages to preach.”
PDP leaders will meet at Aung Myo Oo’s house next Tuesday and will then submit their lists of candidates and the required 1,000 party members and pay the fees at the UEC head office in Naypyidaw before August 29.
Tha Hla Aung said members his party’s main rival, the USDP, had received sweetheart deals on permits to run fishery and agricultural businesses so local residents in Arakan State were against them. Arakanese wanted to support Arakanese ethnic parties such as his, so he was unconcerned about success in the upcoming elections.
The UEC on Friday has set the election date for November 7. Forty of the 47 political parties were granted permission to form, the rest had either been rejected or were awaiting a decision. Just 15 political parties have submitted lists of party members.