RANGOON — Of the few ruling party candidates that have managed to secure seats in Sunday’s general election, several have been dogged by accusations of vote buying, electoral irregularities or other matters of contention.
Representing the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on the Coco Islands, former Burma Navy chief Admiral Thet Swe, former Rangoon Division Border Affairs Minister Col. Tin Win and another ruling party candidate, Aung Naing, all won their races.
However, Burma’s main opposition party has repeatedly claimed that campaigning on the isolated constituency, largely populated by Navy personnel and civil servants, was unfair.
“They got to campaign for the full 60 days while we only got two weeks. We were only able to reach around 400 of the 1,500 eligible voters on the islands during our campaign,” NLD Lower House Candidate for the constituency, Win Min, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
Win Min claimed some local residents had been threatened for meeting NLD candidates and instructed not to vote for the party. The opposition candidates were also reportedly prevented from campaigning in a number of areas deemed off-limits after reaching the islands following weeks-long delays and alleged obstruction.
“There were unlawful threats and restrictions. People voted out of fear,” Win Min said, pledging to file an official complaint.
In Naypyidaw, provisional results indicate the NLD swept all but a solitary seat in the constituency—a Lower House race won by Hla Htay Win, the former chief of staff of the Burma Army, Navy and Air Force, in the military stronghold of Zayathiri Township.
In the run-up to campaign season, Hla Htay Win was accused of offering generous donations in the Naypyidaw Union Territory towards rural electrification and free medical care.
President’s Office Minister Soe Thane, who won his seat for the Upper House representing Karenni State’s Bawlakhe Township (Karenni-9), also reportedly spent some US$235,000 of government funds on building schools, water pipelines and other infrastructure in the area since May, according to a local Karenni political party.
Vice-President Sai Mauk Kham, who contested the Lower House seat of Lashio in northern Shan State, recovered from an early deficit in the vote count to claim victory after the late arrival of some 3,800 advance votes, opposition parties claimed.
Shwe Hla, election campaign manager with the NLD in Lashio, said three political parties had filed a complaint with the township election commission on Sunday over the issue.
Advance votes were among the issues cited by a European Union election observation team, which released preliminary findings on Tuesday. The EU team said the process for advance voting “lacked transparency” and adequate safeguards and that observers were “denied the right to observe out-of-constituency voting in military barracks.”
NLD candidate Thaung Htun, who faced off against Upper House speaker Khin Aung Myint in the Mandalay-8 constituency encompassing Pyawbwe and Yamethin townships, also questioned preliminary results in his constituency after reports of interference.
He said the party was informed by local observers that bribes were offered to polling station officers in some villages in Yamethin District and that, two days before the election, members of Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha visited villages in the area urging locals not to vote for the NLD.
“We were winning when the votes in the urban areas were counted but later, when the vote results from some villages came through, they [USDP] won,” Thaung Htun said, referring to the Yamethin seat.
Former Mandalay Division Border Affairs Minister Aung Kyaw Moe won the local parliament seat in Mandalay’s Meikhtila Township, a constituency dominated by military personnel and civil servants.
The NLD’s candidate for the seat, Tin Ko Ko, claimed that over 60,000 more individuals were on the township’s voter lists compared to the same roster for the April 2012 by-election.
He added that there was “no transparency in polling stations inside military compounds” and that “not all observers were allowed to watch the voting there.”
According to the Union Election Commission (UEC)’s latest official results, the USDP has won 21 Union Parliament seats and 26 seats in regional legislatures. In comparison, the NLD has won 256 Union seats and 234 in regional parliaments.
Additional reporting by Zarni Mann