THE Union Election Commission plans to conduct a pilot project to im-prove lists of voters ahead of the 2015 general election, commission boss U Tin Aye said last week.The pilot project will take place in Yangon’s Ahlone township, Chin State’s Tiddim township and Waing-maw township in Kachin State, al-though it remains unclear when it will get underway. Once the pilot is completed, the commission will then tackle electoral rolls nationwide.The ﬁrst data will be collected in August, U Tin Aye said, adding that he plans to ask civil society organisations for assistance.“The commission can’t ﬁx the elec-toral rolls on its own. We need civil so-ciety’s help as well,” he said on May 15 during a meeting with political parties in Yangon.The pilot project is being conduct-ed as part of the Election Strategic Master Plan drafted by the UEC with support from the International Foun-dation for Electoral Systems (IFES).The overhaul will see electoral rolls stored electronically for the ﬁrst time.“We will collect data over an eight-month period and then keep the lists in a computerised system. If we want to change or update the list, we can do it easily with this system,” said com-mission member U Win Kyi. A number of international groups have promised to provide technol-ogy and other support to computerise electoral rolls, he said.The commission will then release the electoral roll as soon as it announc-es the election date. As in previous elections, it would be voters’ responsibility to ensure their details are correct, he said.“Commission has duty to keep the voter lists but people also have a duty to check whether their name is on the list. We hope we can solve this issue by releasing voter lists very early,” he said. Electoral roll errors plagued both the 2010 general election and 2012 by-elections. While voter lists were posted in township oﬃces, few people came to check their data. However, many complaints emerged on voting day when people came to polling stations but their names were not on the rolls.
Parties reject draft campaign rules
OPPOSITION political parties are re- belling against what they call restric-tive campaign rules drafted by the Union Election Commission. They say the commission, which was set up by the former military regime, is biased against the opposition and is trying to avert a landslide victory by the Nation-al League for Democracy in next year’s general election through new restric-tions on campaigning.“These new restrictions would systematically bind us,” said U Khin Maung Swe, head of the National Dem-ocratic Force (NDF). “They are unfair and make no sense to require a permit for all campaign activities, and even the routes we use.”Under the draft directive, parties would only be able to launch their cam-paigns within 30 days of election day. Parties would have to request permis-sion to campaign in speciﬁc locations at least 15 days in advance, and the num- ber of participants and the campaign routes would also have to be approved by the township election commis-sion oﬃce. Meetings in party oﬃces, meanwhile, would require candidates to inform the township commission at least two days in advance. While the UEC will enable all parties to present their policies through state media, campaigning through private media re-quires oﬃcial permission. Party leaders wishing to support their candidates in other constituencies would also have to get permission from UEC. It is this ﬁnal provision – which ob-servers say appears to target Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – that has drawn the most controversy.On April 7, U Tin Aye reportedly told election commission members and political parties in Pathein, Ay-eyarwady Region, that candidates in the 2015 general election would not be allowed to campaign outside their own constituencies. Following the reports, NLD and other parties said the restric-tion was prompted by fears that NLD would win by a landslide in 2015. While U Tin Aye denied making the com-ments, a draft of the planned directive distributed to political parties appears to conﬁrm this restriction.In an eﬀort to smooth over the dis-pute, the commission met representa-tives of 65 parties in Yangon on May 15 to get feedback on the directive.U Tin Aye told
The Myanmar Times
after the meeting that he drafted the changes to election campaign rules based on the request of political parties following the 2012 by-elections. “I stand as a judge among political parties. In the past elections, power-ful parties did campaigns very freely everywhere. Small parties did not get chances, so they suggested to me there should be disciplined rules for cam-paign. During today’s discussions we listened to their voices and comments and if they reject this directive then I will do as they desire,” U Tin Aye said. Political parties have interpreted his comments as referring to NLD cam-paign activities in the 2012 by-elections. Before election day, party leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi travelled to dozens of townships to campaign on behalf of NLD candidates. The party said last week it is resolutely against the changes.“We don’t agree at all. We discussed and presented evidence to show that this directive does not comply with the laws,” spokesperson U Nyan Win said.Many other parties have also re- jected the draft directive circulated by UEC. The drafts form part of the Election Strategic Master Plan written by UEC with support from the Inter-national Foundation for Electoral Sys-tems (IFES).U Aye Thar Aung, chair of the Ra-khine National Party, said no such directive had been issued before the 1990 elections, which the NLD won. “In 1990, all parties campaigned in various ways. If the UEC tries to restrict us with this new directive, the 2015 elections won’t be free and fair,” he said.“The UEC wants the USDP to win,” U Aye Thar Aung added, referring to the Union Solidarity and Development Party.But USDP vice chair U Htay Oo said his party believes the UEC directive is “reasonable” and that the requirement to seek a permit is not burdensome. He also rejected criticisms that the UEC favoured USDP, adding that if this was the case, “Why did [the UEC] send the drafts to other political parties as well?”The chair of the commission, U Tin Aye, is a former lieutenant-general elected in 2010 to represent Tada Oo township, Mandalay Region, as a mem- ber of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). In early 2011 he was appointed UEC chief by the then-military government, and was forced to resign from parliament to take up the post. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), which is working with the UEC to build capacity and promote demo-cratic reform, said in a policy brief last week that any changes should be in-formed by international best practices. While it did not pass judgement on the draft directive, IDEA said in the policy brief that international protocols and guides on the holding of elections are “unanimous in stressing the need to uphold the freedom of movement for the purposes of political campaigning”.
Election commission plans electoral roll pilot ahead of voter list overhaul
EI EI TOE LWIN
A woman speaks to electoral officers in a Yangon polling station during by-elections on April 1, 2012.
Photo: Kaung Htet
EI EI TOE LWIN
‘The Union Election Commission wants the USDP to win.’
U Aye Thar Aung
Rakhine National Party chair
Opposition groups accuse Union Election Commission of bias after May 15 meeting to discuss draft campaigning directive
Bus owners could face charges after crashes
BUS company oﬃcials could go to prison in the event of more accidents on the Yangon-Mandalay Highway, a local oﬃcial warned last week, after 14 passengers died when a bus plunged oﬀ the highway near Nay Pyi Taw.Nay Pyi Taw District Supervisory Committee for Traﬃc Rules Enforce-ment chair U Saw Hla, a member of Nay Pyi Taw Council, told a press con-ference that Yarzarmin, the company that operated the bus that crashed on May 12, is now banned from operating buses in Nay Pyi Taw. Asked why similar action was not taken against the operator of a bus that caught ﬁre on the highway in April, killing 12 passengers, U Saw Hla said it was because the accident had not occurred in Nay Pyi Taw district. An inter-ministerial investigation team has been set up to uncover the cause of the crash. The Yarzarmin driver has been charged with four oﬀences but U Saw Hla said owners could also be liable.“This has happened so many times. Taking action against the individual driver is not enough. We will also take action against those responsible,” U Saw Hla said.“This closure could help decrease accidents and ensure respect for rules and regulations. If a crime has been committed, we will take action through the courts. This is not a mat-ter of paying a ﬁne of a few thousand kyat – it could result in a prison sen-tence. Severe action is necessary.“Bus drivers hold the lives of their passengers in their hands.”The bus driver was operating with a restricted licence following an acci-dent in 2013, he said. The driver was badly injured in the accident, and has only now regained consciousness.U Saw Hla also sought to refute al-legations that the design and construc-tion of the highway was partly to blame for the large number of accidents that have occurred since it opened in 2009. They cited oﬃcial statistics that showed almost two-thirds of accidents on the highway in 2013 were caused by human error, with another 24pc at-tributed to mechanical failure. Just 1pc were attributed to the condition of the road, which is mostly concrete.
– Translation by Khant Lin Oo
PYAE THET PHYO
Number of people killed on the Yangon-Mandalay Highway during 2013
EARLIER REPORT PAGE 17