Candidates say weakness, irregularities and party influence impacting advance voting

November 7, 2020

HURFOM: Some election candidates claim there are weaknesses within some Election Sub-commissions where irregularities, influence  and threats from the political parties might be jeopardizing a “ “free and fairelection from happening. 

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) interviewed two election candidates on November 5 to hear their concerns as it has been impacting advance voting. Elderly voters (60 + years of age)  make up the majority of those who have been casting their advance votes between October 29 and November 5, 2020.  

The candidates, U Tun Kyaw Myint and Min Aung Htoo,  observed three things of concern taking place in some advance voting polling stations – i) weaknesses in the voting process, ii) irregularities concerning balloting and family support for the elderly and iii) undue party influence.  Below is an excerpt of the interviews with both candidates.

Weakness of particular Election Subcommissions

We dont have the updated voter list. Only the election subcommission has it, and they deliver election slips (showing the slip on election day will make the voting process quick and easy, [because sometimes] the polling staff cant easily find the voter in the list). Some voters got slips but some didnt. Those who didnt get a slip wont lose their voting right, [but it is an irregular practice] … as soon as we noticed that yesterday (on November 4), we reported it to the Township Election Subcommission. We urged the Township Commission to make sure that wont happen again, said U Tun Kyaw Myint aka Nai Min Latt, an election candidate of #2 Constituency of Mon State Parliament in Thanbyuzayat Township.

Casting advance votes is the right of elderly people. But there are many challenges. The Commissions themselves dont know the electoral law and they make careless mistakes, said Min Aung Htoo, an election candidate for #2 Constituency of Mon State Parliament in Ye Township.   He explained, “The Commission has delivered the wrong ballots. For instance, instead of delivering State parliament ballots, they gave out ethnic affair candidate ballots. And there were inconveniences where they delivered election slips. According to the electoral law, the Commission has to deliver the slip to the votershouse but in reality, the voters had to go to the Commission office to get the slips.” 

Canadiadate Min Aung Htoo, added, “…[some] elderly voters cant read well and are physically weak. They didnt have family members to assist them. In those cases, polling staff put a stamp on the ballot paper that was different from the choice of the voters.” 

Daw Nyunt Yi aka Mi Jondal Non, an election candidate for #1 Constituency of Mon State Parliament in Kyaikmayaw Township said, “Elderly people have the right to have their family members assist them but the village Commission didnt accept that. The village Commission didnt want family members to assist elderly voters. They were [either} forcing elderly voters to vote themselves or polling staff would assist, but the voters didnt trust the staff.  So we had to send a complaint to the township Commission. It was okay after that, but the village Commission still made things difficult.” 

Mi Jondal Non affirmed the same irregularity that candidate Min Aung Htoo observed from Thanbyuzayat Township, “On the first day [of advance voting] in Kyaikmayaw Town, the Commission didnt give the ballots for Mon State parliament. They just gave ballots for House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw), House of Representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw) and Ehtnic Affair Candidates. We had to bring the voters to the polling station and let them vote again.” 

Influence of Political Parties over the Election Sub-commissions

Nai Min Latt, said, “When delivering election slips, some Commission Members [where known} to be NLD supporters, and they delivered the slips to the voters who supported NLD. So only those who support NLD got the slips. Other voters didnt get the slips.

He added, “the Commission also allowed the Hundred and Ten household leaders who support the NLD to deliver the slips. So just those who got the slips appeared at the polling station. They were the ones who supported NLD. Its not happen at all polling stations. It happened at the polling stations managed by NLDsupported Commission Members.

Also, when elderly people needed assistance from family members to cast their vote the NLD opposed that. We are still waiting for instruction from the District Election Commission to settle this problem, concluded  Nai Min Latt.

Min Aung Htoo observed that, “In some polling stations, there was influence from the political parties. For instance, lets talk about the NLD. They did what they wanted where they had power. We interrupted the voting process. They even intimidated the voters.” 

Voter intimidation and undue party influence

In Kwan Ngan village, voters who had accepted 20,000Kyat in government monetary support didnt want to cast an advance vote because theyre afraid they couldnt vote for the parties they supported. Those who provided monetary support intimidated them to vote for NLD. They were told that a car would pick them up on the election day and they had to vote for NLD. The problem here is intimidation against the voters who got monetary support,said Mi Jondal Non.

Both candidates felt that what they observed in advance voting polls is limiting the country’s ability to ensure that a free and fair election is taking place. 

Advance voting process across the country isnt totally free and fair, ” said Nai Min Latt.  He concluded his interview saying, “The political parties, CSO and election monitoring groups must watch this election closely. Its not easy to hold an election during the Covid19 period. ” 

Min Aung Htoo, added, “The good point of advance voting is we can reduce the number of voters [having to turn out] on the election day. But the advance voting process itself has mistakes.”

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