RANGOON— The Union Election Commission (UEC) will leave candidate applications for the November election open for another week, as large swathes of northern and western Burma continue to be ravaged by flooding.
UEC director Thaung Hlaing told The Irrawaddy on Monday that as a result of the flood crisis, the commission had decided to extend the deadline for candidate submissions from the coming Saturday to Aug. 14.
“We decided to extend the period as wide parts of the country have seen difficulties for transportation and the weather is bad,” he said, adding that some parties had argued that an extension was necessary, as they had been unable to submit candidate lists in affected areas.
Parties and independent candidates are required to lodge application forms with district commission offices. The UEC said on Monday that candidates unable to lodge application forms as a result of transport difficulties could contact the commission for assistance.
The postponement of the nomination deadline has also pushed back the deadline for withdrawal of nominations to Aug. 17, and the commission will now scrutinize candidates from Aug. 18-27.
The Union government on Saturday declared disaster zones in four regions, including Chin and Arakan states and Sagaing and Magwe divisions.
Tin Oo, chairman of the UEC’s Sagaing Division office, said that so far there had not been significant obstacles for election preparations in flood-affected areas. He told The Irrawaddy that his office, which is currently preparing voter lists for public display, has not suffered any loss of data on voter information despite the flooding some UEC offices in the division.
“Some township offices were flooded and couldn’t open, so they moved to other places or to the offices of the district commission,” he said. “I believe all election preparations will be finished in time, as the water level is expected to drop in one week.”
The UEC has legal authority to postpone elections in specific townships in the event of natural disasters or local conflict. Asked whether the UEC would consider delaying polls in flood-affected areas, Thaung Hlaing told The Irrawaddy that the move had not been considered.
“For now, we will only focus on accepting candidate forms,” he said.
A total of 40 parties and 42 independents filed candidate applications with the commission between July 20 and Aug. 1, with a total of 868 candidates submitted for the country’s 1,171 state, divisional and Union seats. Another 49 registered political parties have yet to put forward candidates.
Meanwhile, Shwe Mann took to Facebook on Monday to announce that the coming parliamentary session will be postponed.
The Union Parliament speaker said that lawmakers were busy collaborating with government departments and aid organizations to deliver relief to areas hit by flooding and landslides. The date for the next session of parliament will be announced later.