Preparations for the April by-elections are now in full swing, the Union Election Commission told political parties assembled in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. Advanced voter applications are being accepted, candidates have been scrutinised and 95 have been approved, and sub-committees are being assembled to proceed over the vote.
Union Election Commission chair U Hla Thein confirmed yesterday that voter lists checked through door-to-door campaigns will go live in respective constituencies on February 1, with a public scrutiny and corrections window open until February 14.
The electoral rolls were one of the most fraught aspects of the November 2015 vote, with a large number of complaints regarding inaccuracies and fears of manipulation. At one point, the National League for Democracy even suggested postponing the historic poll pending a large number of corrections. The NLD had released an open letter to the UEC saying voter lists that went on display in the second phase of the electoral roll project featured error rates ranging from 30 to 80 percent.
But the UEC has so far expressed confidence in the process of assembling the current, and much diminished catalogue, though has again asked for public assistance in double-checking.
“We have arranged for voter lists to be checked by the households. After the list is made publicly available, we ask voters to come and check it and put forward any necessary corrections or removal of inappropriate persons by filling out the relevant, stipulated forms,” said UEC chair U Hla Thein.
As only those who are included on the voter lists are eligible to vote, it is important for everyone to ensure his or her name is correctly enumerated, he added.
U Hla Thein also said that like in the general election, a central coordination committee and sub-committees will be formed to help oversee the process and deal with any disputes.
“The aim in forming these committees is to coordinate, negotiate and settle any issues or conflicts which may arise during the pre-election campaign and then the election period. We want to avoid situations which can affect the stability and peace,” said U Hla Thein at a meeting with political parties held at the UEC’s office yesterday.
The committees will be assembled with “relevant persons from election-related departments in the contesting constituencies”, as well as members of the political parties with candidates vying for a spot.
Political party representatives are being included in case any inter-party disputes need to be settled, U Hla Thein explained to The Myanmar Times during a break at the meeting.
“A main point I wish to make is that we will handle any settlements transparently. We will address them with the mindset of the saying: Making a big issue small and make a small issue disappear,” he said.
Dai Htone, general secretary of the Chin National Democratic Party, said yesterday after the meeting that he supported the decision to form the committees, as well as any other efforts to ensure the coming vote is free and fair.
“This is the first time that such committees have been formed for by-elections … In case there are constituencies with no committees, the political parties will have to negotiate with each other. But it is good to have such committees to settle issues without confrontation between parties,” he said.
According to a statement released by the UEC, advanced vote ballots will be provided from March 3 to 10. Voters within the country who have been hospitalised, imprisoned or are attending a training will be provided ballot slips which must arrive back in their respective township election commissions no later than 4pm on April, election day.
Secretary of the UEC U Tin Tun said at yesterday’s meeting that unlike the general election ballot stamping, the by-election advance votes would be a tick in the box.
“For the 2017 by-election, a tick must be made with a ballpoint pen on the advance voting slips,” he said.
So far, 357 applicants have been received for advanced voting, and applications are still being accepted.
In total, nine seats are available in the Pyithu Hluttaw, three seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw, and seven seats in the state and region legislatures. Those constituencies are currently lacking legislative representation.
In total, 88 candidates representing 24 political parties will contest the election, along with seven independents, for a total of 95 candidates. The National League for Democracy and the Union Solidarity and Development Party will both contest every available seat.