Cheating claims in Yangon vote bode ill for 2015 poll

Myanmar's largest city votes for first time in six decades amid protests over electoral rules

Cheating claims in Yangon vote bode ill for 2015 poll

World Bulletin/News Desk

The first election in Myanmar’s largest city in 65 years was marked by claims of malpractice as residents and candidates protested over the way the poll was conducted, local media reported.

Residents in Yangon, a city of around 5 million people, went to the polls to vote for 115 members of the Yangon City Development Committee, the former capital’s municipal authority, from just under 300 candidates.

The election was viewed as a guage of the country’s democratic credentials in the run-up to next year’s general election.

Of the influential central committee, five of nine seats are appointed by central government. The remaining four were won by three businessmen and a doctor in a vote where turnout was 26 percent.

“We protested not because we lost in the elections,” U Aung Kyaw Oo, who had stood for election in Mingalardon township, told the Mizzima news website. “We protested because the election was unfair. Even if I won in the election, I had decided to resign my seat.”

There have been complaints over voters being canvassed for their ballots near polling stations as well as the selection of eligible voters.

According to electoral rules, only one household member was allowed to vote irrespective of the number of adults. This resulted in an electorate of around 400,000 that many complained was biased.

Candidate Ma Elizabeth told Mizzima: “It is totally unfair. Although the rule says that candidates must not woo the voters within 50 yards of a polling station, some candidates stood at the entrance to polling stations persuading voters.”

Poor understanding and the absence of any extended campaigning in the run-up to the vote last week meant many were unaware the vote had even taken place.

Khin Hlaing, the winning candidate in Yangon’s western district, said the controversy could be beneficial for future elections.

“All elections have weaknesses,” he told the Irrawaddy website. “It’s good to have objections because it shows an increase in public interest. The commission will learn from this for the next time.”

Lawmaker Thein Nyunt warned of a “confrontation” if the general election, scheduled for November, is as unfair as Yangon’s local election.

“If the 2015 election is held unfairly like the YCDC election, the public won’t tolerate it,” he told the Eleven Myanmar news outlet.

For many the Yangon election was their first chance to vote under the country’s quasi-civilian government, which replaced the junta in 2011. The committee was last elected by popular vote in 1949.

The polls were the second major vote since the 2010 general election, marred by widespread allegations of cheating and a boycott by the main opposition party.

By-elections held in 2012 were considered much freer and saw democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi enter parliament for the first time. Her National League for Democracy is expected to sweep next year’s poll although she is currently barred from running for president.

 

Last Mod: 31 Aralık 2014, 14:48
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