RANGOON — After delays in the announcement of approved candidate lists caused some parliamentary hopefuls to sit out the first day of official campaigning for Burma’s general election on Tuesday, a Union Election Commission (UEC) official says finalized candidate rosters are to be approved nationwide this week. Thaung Hlaing, a director from the commission, said the Naypyidaw-based UEC had informed subcommissions to announce finalized candidate lists on Wednesday, adding that it would be the responsibility of local election officials to carry out the directive.
But with an appeals process that can take up to 14 days all told, the chairman of the Rangoon Division election subcommission, Ko Ko, said the commercial capital might not see a finalized field of competing candidates announced until next week.
“Since we received some appeals late, we haven’t been able to announce the final candidate lists in some townships where we received appeals. So, it is true that some candidates will be late for campaigning for a few days. But it is very few [candidates still awaiting word from the subcommission],” he said.
“We will finish the finalized candidate lists by early next week. We won’t be later than that,” he added.
Ko Ko said the local election body had received more than 20 appeals from 34 people whose applications for candidacy were rejected on the grounds that they had failed to meet certain eligibility criteria. Candidates are given one week to appeal upon notification of a rejected bid, with relevant election subcommissions then ruling on the appeal within seven days.
There are currently 796 candidates in Rangoon Division who have cleared UEC scrutiny to contest Burma’s Nov. 8 election. A total of 149 seats are up for grabs in Rangoon Division between the Union Parliament and regional legislature, with up to 1,171 seats in play nationwide.
Parties and candidates have expressed dissatisfaction at the failure of the UEC and its subcommissions to meet a Sept. 7 deadline for candidate lists that parties had pushed for, leading to the postponement of some campaigns.
Saw Than Myint, chairman of the Federal Union Party (FUP), said Tuesday that although the campaign period had officially begun, the absence of finalized candidate lists meant only FUP candidates who had been confirmed would officially start campaigning.
“The candidate lists have not yet been announced in some townships, including in Rangoon. So we need to postpone campaigning in some townships,” said Saw Than Myint, whose party has put forward 38 candidates to contest the November poll.
The 60-day campaign period runs from Sept. 8 to Nov. 6, with the general election due Nov. 8. Candidate disqualifications have garnered controversy as election subcommissions have appeared to disproportionately reject Muslim candidates, typically on grounds that one or both of their parents were not Burmese citizens when the parliamentary hopeful was born.
The citizenship requirement is one stipulation of Burma’s election laws, as are minimum age requirements and a prohibition on past or present affiliation with “unlawful associations,” both of which have also been used to knock would be candidates out of the running.