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Election Body Rebuffs Military Request for Poll Presence in Naypyidaw Constituency

A district election body in Naypyidaw rejects a request for army appointees to administer polling stations within military compounds in Zayarthiri Township.


RANGOON — An election subcommission in Naypyidaw has rejected a request for army appointees to administer polling stations within military compounds in Zayarthiri Township, a constituency where recently retired general Hla Htay Win will contest for a Lower House seat in the Nov. 8 poll.

Aung Lwin, chair of Naypyidaw’s Ottarathiri district election subcommission, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the commission had received from the military a list of army personnel to act as polling station officers at 15 voting stations inside military compounds in Ahnawrahtar ward of Zayarthiri Township.

“They want to appoint the polling station officers, including head and deputy head officers, for reasons of security. But we can’t permit it,” Aung Lwin said.

“It is not in accordance with the commission law and by-law and it will raise doubts among monitoring groups and political parties.”

The subcommission informed military officials that poll officers would be drawn from the education ministry, Aung Lwin said.

Article 39(a) of Burma’s Election Law states that township subcommissions should appoint persons “from amongst the civil services” as polling station officers.

Aung Lwin said the subcommission was empowered to appoint poll officers from the education ministry as a first priority, then other civil servants or those well-regarded among local residents.

Ahnawrahtar ward hosts one of two military cantonment areas in Zayarthiri Township, as well as a defense ministry office, according to Aung Lwin.

Former general Hla Htay Win, who previously served as chief of general staff for the Burma Army, Navy and Air Force, was unveiled as a ruling party candidate in late July.

He will compete for a Lower House seat with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Zayarthiri constituency, which hosts over 18,000 eligible voters from the military out of a total of almost 50,000.

Hla Myint from the National Unity Party (NUP) and Khin Myo Twin from the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), are also contesting the seat.

Union Election Commission chairman Tin Aye said last month that if military officials were reluctant to accept outside observers, he would request that the armed forces relocate booths outside of military facilities.

U Pwint, chair of the Shan State election subcommission, told The Irrawaddy there were no plans to establish polling stations inside Burma Army compounds in the state.

“We’re not sure whether [the military] would allow [poll officers] inside their camps as election observers, or the media. If they didn’t, we could do nothing. … So we won’t have polling stations inside their camps,” he said.

He added that the subcommission had not yet received any request for military appointed poll officers and also planned to appoint education ministry officials for the task.

Among 2.9 million eligible voters in the state, around 200,000 are military members, he said.

Kyaw Win Maung, chair of the Karen State subcommission, said it was not yet confirmed whether some voting stations would be set up within military cantonments. He said the commission was arranging for local teachers to man polling stations in the state.

At a press conference in Naypyidaw on Monday, Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing pledged to facilitate a free and fair vote at polling stations in military cantonments, while conceding there would be some security restrictions.

“Apart from the restrictions, we will stick to UEC regulations,” he said.