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VOTING

Amid Some Complaints, Burma’s Vote Passes Peacefully

Despite some concerns as voters waited expectantly in long queues at polling stations across the country, voting on Sunday passed without major incident.


RANGOON — For millions of Burmese, the chance to vote in Sunday’s general election was a moment to savor.

Although there were some concerns, as many voters waited expectantly in long queues at polling stations in major cities, the poll passed peacefully as ballot stations closed at 4 pm.

Nyan Win, a National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy a few minutes before the close of voting that his party had not received any reports of election-related violence.

“We still haven’t heard about any violence. [Only] disputes over voter list errors and complaints over people losing the right to cast votes,” he said.

The Irrawaddy’s correspondents in several states and divisions concurred that there had been no known incidents of election-related violence in their areas. Union Election Commission (UEC) headquarters in Naypyidaw could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Among voters’ concerns were long wait times outside polling stations—an issue that, while ostensibly fairly minor, nevertheless caused angst among some voters as the 4 pm deadline approached.

“Due to small polling stations, voters have to wait at least two hours to cast their votes,” a resident of Rangoon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt told The Irrawaddy.

In the Monywa area of Sagaing Division, wait times were particularly acute, with some polling stations clustered together and catering for in excess of 10,000 eligible voters.

The NLD has assigned their own observers across the country to report any irregularities in the lead up to, and on, election day. Just after midday, the party voiced concern over reports of unlawful activity in Pathein, the administrative seat of Irrawaddy Division, where villagers were reportedly offered 100,000 kyat loans that would be absolved if the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) secured a victory in the township.

“If that is true, we announce that we will take action in accordance with the law because that is unlawful,” the NLD said in a statement.

In Naypyidaw, where several ruling party heavyweights are contesting seats, voters told The Irrawaddy they were concerned over the potential for voting irregularities.

A Lower House candidate for the National Unity Party (NUP), Kyaw Aye, claimed earlier in the day that although only 50 people cast advance votes at the Letpan Khahla polling station in Aung Thabyay Ward of Naypyidaw’s Zabuthiri Township, the names of over 100 advance voters had appeared on a list hung at the polling station on Sunday.

The NUP candidate said he had filed a complaint over the issue.

In Kachin State’s Myitkyina, “phantom voters” had been added to lists of advance voters, according to the National Democratic Force’s Lower House candidate for the township, Bauk Ja.

“I think hundreds of advance voters are dead people. I’ll have to inform the election commission,” she said.

In the Mon State capital Moulmein, voter turnout was high. One issue involved a number of ethnic Burman voters who were reportedly left off voter lists and unable to cast a ballot.

With votes now submitted and the count begun, all eyes will turn to the results. The UEC will begin announcing election results at 9 am on Monday, the commission said. —Reporting by Kyaw Hsu Mon and Kyaw Phyo Tha in Rangoon, Nyein Nyein in Naypyidaw and Yen Snaing in Moulmein.