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VOTING

EU Observers Denied Access to Military Votes

While EU election observers said that voting in Sunday’s poll was well-run, shortcomings included that observers were denied access to army barracks.


RANGOON – European Union election observers said Tuesday that voting in Burma’s general election on Sunday was “generally well-run,” while citing several shortcomings including the process for advance voting and denial of access to ballot stations in military cantonment areas.

On election day, EU observers were posted at around 500 polling stations throughout the country, with 95 percent rating the voting process as “good” or “very good,” according to a statement released by the observation team on Tuesday.

However, the EU team said the process for advance voting “lacked transparency” and adequate safeguards and observers were “denied the right to observe out-of-constituency voting in military barracks.”

In September, Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing pledged to facilitate a free and fair vote at polling stations in military cantonment areas, while conceding there would be some security restrictions.

“Apart from the restrictions, we will stick to UEC regulations,” Min Aung Hlaing told reporters on Sept. 22.

The EU observation mission said it requested authorization to observe advance voting in military barracks but was denied permission by the UEC to do so, despite an earlier agreement and an “assurance from the Commander-in-Chief.”

“Out of-constituency advance voting lacked transparency and due to the modalities for military voting the regular procedures were not applied,” the EU team said.

The EU delegation, led by Alexander Graf Lambsdorf, a member of the European Parliament, also noted the disproportionate number of Muslim candidates that had their bids to run in Sunday’s poll rejected by election sub-commissions on “unreasonable” citizenship and residency grounds.

“The management of appeals during candidate nomination lacked transparency, and some decisions appeared to be arbitrary, with a notable percentage of Muslim candidates being rejected,” the EU team said in Tuesday’s statement.

The observers’ preliminary findings were presented at a press conference in Rangoon on Tuesday, with a final statement, including assessment of the vote count and the handling of complaints, to be issued at a later date.