NAYPYIDAW — Regional observers on Monday offered congratulations to Burma’s Union Election Commission for holding a “well-organized” general election a day earlier, and Washington echoed that sentiment following the poll.
UEC chairman Tin Aye met briefly with a delegation of the Asean Electoral Management Bodies and other regional poll monitors at the UEC headquarters in Naypyidaw ahead of the group’s planned departure from the country on Monday evening, after a three-day visit to Burma to coincide with the election.
As international observers, the regional delegation said the UEC had successfully carried out its duties as arbiter of the poll, pointing to many happy, enthusiastic voters who had cast ballots starting at 6 am on Sunday.
Dr. S. Y. Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner for India and a member of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), said: “I would like to congratulate you for the very successful, peaceful, transparent election.”
“I know how difficult a task it is,” he added.
The observers said they were able to talk to a variety of election officials, political party agents and voters during the delegation’s three-day visit.
“The voters’ interest is really remarkable; although they had been in the queue for some hours, they were still smiling,” said Quraishi. “They said they were enjoying it and said, ‘It is like a festival for us.’”
He cited estimates that turnout stood at up to 80 percent of eligible voters as a sign of the public’s engagement with the electoral process.
“Eighty percent is a great indicator, and there was a very happy and positive response. I think the voter education program was extremely successful. That’s contributed a lot to the positive response.”
The election was not without its flaws, he noted.
“I also found … that ballots are found in different boxes. There were some human errors that could be improved upon in the future.”
Durudee Sirichanya, assistant director of public outreach and civil society division of the from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Secretariat, told The Irrawaddy: “What I have seen from yesterday, from over 12 hours talking with people in several areas including the villages that we could reach by car, people seem very happy and that’s the most important.”
“The UEC and Myanmar government have worked very hard in the past couple of years in preparation for this election,” she added.
“Myanmar has definitely taken it seriously and they have made all efforts in order to try to educate the Myanmar people on how it will take place, where it will take place, not only on mass media such as TV and newspapers. They even made announcements in township areas and even people going door to door, making sure as many people as they could reach are aware of the election.”
UEC chairman Tin Aye gave brief remarks to reporters following his meeting with the election observers.
“The commission will listen to the observers’ report on their findings, and we will accept those [findings] which will benefit the country and apply them in future elections,” Tin Aye said.
Praise also came from Washington on Sunday, with US Secretary of State John Kerry releasing a statement commending the “important step forward” that the election marked.
Kerry added, however, that there remained “important structural and systemic impediments to the realization of full democratic and civilian government” in Burma.
That included “the reservation of a large number of unelected seats for the military; the disfranchisement of groups of people who voted in previous elections, including the Rohingya; and the disqualification of candidates based on arbitrary application of citizenship and residency requirements,” his statement read.
The UEC is due to begin announcing election results at 6 pm on Monday. Sunday’s vote passed without major incident, and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) appears headed for a major victory at the polls.