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UEC assumes nationwide vote


U Tin Aye, Chairman of the Union Electoral Commission (UEC), speaks during a press conference in Yangon on 22 July, 2015. Photo: Thet Ko/Mizzima

U Tin Aye, Chairman of the Union Electoral Commission (UEC), told members of the press on 22 July that it is unlikely that areas with conflict will have the opportunity to vote in the 2015 general elections and that political candidates are barred from campaigning on military sites.

The announcement of areas where voting will take place in the country will be announced a week or two before the general election, this is similar to the 2010 general election where only 325 townships participated in the election.

“We have released the electoral states with the assumption that we would be able to hold the election nationwide. But, if asked whether we would be able to hold the election in every province, I would say it is not possible,” said U Tin Aye.

Article 399(e) of the 2008 constitution states that the UEC is responsible for; postponing elections in constituencies where free and fair election cannot be held due to natural disaster orthe local security situation.

“What I want to say to the media is that I will try my best to hold the election for ethnic people.”

During the 2010-general election several areas around the country were not able to vote due to security concerns. 15,000 people fled across the Myanmar-Thai border near Myawaddy due to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (then known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) fighting with government troops.

Thai forces were drawn to the border as shells had landed on Thai territory.

Election related violence was prevalent around the country in 2010 with reports in Rahkine state of students being beaten by border security force (na-sa-ka) for wearing National Democratic Party for Development t-shirts, a Rohingya party. Na-sa-ka members attacked seven NDPD supporters on Election Day at a polling booth.

A NLD member was attacked by two members of the Swan Arr Shin, a militant wing of the USDA,and was hospitalized for a month. Upon leaving hospital he attempted to open a court case, but the two men bribed the judge 1.2m kyat to close the case.

This year though U Tin Aye has said that he has worked with NGOs and CSOs to work on what problems may occur and where; “We have collected data and suggested that the government organise security to ensure peace during the election,” he said.

The Military and Advanced Voting

Political candidates are barred from entering barracks and military sites when on the campaign trail, however, they are able to distribute campaigning material to the sites.

On voting day, voting booths will be on site, candidates and party members as well as the press will be allowed on site to monitor the voting. If the military forbid this then they will be forced to move the booth outside of the installation, according to U Tin Aye.

“Media can take a look and party representatives if they want to. They can watch the process of voting in the army according to the laws,

If the army won’t allow it, we have told them clearly to keep the ballot box outside.”

32 million citizens are registered to vote, this includes those living abroad. Speculation falls on the advanced voting methods that sealed the victory for the USDP in 2010.

Field Director of the Carter Foundation, Frederick Rawski said that the election commission has assured The Carter Foundation that observers will have access to the advance voting process.

“This should include access for observers to monitor the advance voting process in military installations,” said Mr. Rawski, going on to say,

“The UEC has promised to make substantial changes to the advance voting system to ensure transparency, which was lacking in 2010.  It is crucial that they make these changes public very soon.”

The Carter Foundation has been “conducting a field-based assessment of Myanmar's pre-election and transition environment.’ A report from the group was conducted from December 2014 to February 2015.

The group laid out recommendations for the UEC, government and all stakeholders in the election. It called out for the UEC to allow for greater transparency and better voter registration and that political actors should refrain from hate speech or discriminatory language.

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