RANGOON — Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has approved rules that will govern campaigning for the 2015 elections, despite claims from opposition parties that the regulations will restrict their ability to get their message out to voters.
The UEC stated in a directive dated July 1 that it had settled upon the rules, which it said would ensure a free and fair election.
The rules were subject to a consultation with political parties, but measures seen as overly restrictive remain—notably a limited period during which campaigning is permitted and the obligation to seek permission before holding rallies.
Parties can start campaigning from 30 days before the election, and are not allowed to canvass on the day before the election, according to the rules, which the UEC has distributed to political parties.
In order to give a speech or hold a public rally, candidates must submit an application to the local constituency election commission office within 15 days of the candidates’ names for that constituency being announced. For public speeches and rallies held at political parties’ own offices, two days advance notice must be given.
Applications to hold rallies must include the place, date, time and duration of the event, and details of any speakers, information about the applicant and whether vehicles will be used in the rally, the rules state. The commission said it will always grant permission after scrutinizing the applications.
But opposition parties have said the rules will make it difficult to freely campaign.
“It is not a free election. We can’t give speeches at the place where we want, we need to get permission. It was the same with previous elections,” said Thu Wai, the chairman of Democratic Party (Myanmar).
Hla Maung Cho, director of the UEC, insisted that applications for permission were needed in order to avoid problems with campaign events being planned at the same places.
“The candidate, or a party member who is given the authority by the candidate, can submit the application. They must submit the application so that we can make sure not to overlap the venues where parties want to hold the rallies or give public speeches,” Hla Maung Cho told The Irrawaddy, adding that the commission would negotiate to ensure competing parties’ rallies do not overlap.
Banya Aung Moe from the All Mon Regions Democracy Party said the campaign rules were similar to the 2010 election, and complained that calls for a longer campaign period had been ignored.
“Thirty days is not enough time to campaign. It is too short to travel around and to educate voters,” he said, explaining that in remote regions like Mon State in particular, a longer period was needed for parties to reach out to all voters.
Thaung Hlaing, another UEC director, said the commission had made significant concessions to the political parties during the consultation period.
“We acceded to almost all requests of parties about the election campaign rules. Internationally, they give two weeks, but we will give one month,” Thaung Hlaing told The Irrawaddy.