NAYPYIDAW — The Naypyidaw Union Territory’s electoral subcommission has barred a sitting National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker from campaigning door to door in the civil servants’ quarters of Zabuthiri Township.
Phyo Zeyar Thaw, the NLD’s Lower House candidate for Zabuthiri Township, told The Irrawaddy that he had asked the Union Election Commission (UEC) to intervene after the capital’s election subcommission sent a letter on Thursday instructing him to cease door to door campaigning in areas where the residences of civil servants are densely clustered.
“We informed the UEC about the issue on Thursday. The UEC said they would get back to us soon,” said Zeyar Thaw, a sitting lawmaker elected to a seat in neighboring Pokebathiri Township in a 2012 by-election.
“It violates the voters’ right to get access to the candidates’ information,” he said, adding that on Wednesday evening he had received a phone call from a local administrative officer who delivered the same campaigning prohibition.
Until Thursday, Zeyar Thaw had for the last three weeks been campaigning unhindered in the civil servants’ quarters and elsewhere in Zabuthiri.
Zeyar Thaw said the local election subcommission did not appear to object to him continuing to drive through the civil servants’ quarters in his campaign truck.
Thaung Hlaing, a UEC director, confirmed that the NLD had asked the national polling body to intervene in the case, but added that the situation in Zabuthiri had not been discussed as of Friday afternoon.
“I cannot comment on the issue as we have not discussed it,” Thaung Hlaing told The Irrawaddy. “But electoral law does not restrict any form of campaigning, as long as the house owners accept [candidates’ canvassing efforts].”
“The UEC does not ban anything. Everybody can freely campaign,” he insisted.
In conversations with several locals in Zabuthiri, The Irrawaddy was told that many names were omitted from relevant voter lists, despite those excluded having cast ballots in previous elections. They said they had filed the necessary forms to apply for inclusion on the list, but would not know if the effort proved fruitful until the local electoral body made final voter lists publically available in late October.
In Burma’s 2012 by-election, there were more than 56,000 eligible voters, while the 2015 voter list includes just over 21,000 people, Zeyar Thaw claimed.
Thaung Hlaing said eligible voters could apply to have their name added to the voter list until one week before election day, as per Article 14 of the Lower House election bylaws.
He urged the public to do so if their names were erroneously excluded. There are more than 33 million eligible voters nationwide, according to the UEC.
Zeyar Thaw’s complaint is not the first to come from NLD candidates in the capital. During voter education efforts carried out by the party ahead of the official campaign period, two NLD members were arrested on trespassing charges. The NLD has also accused ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) of vote-buying in Naypyidaw.
In Burma’s 2010 general election, President Thein Sein won the Zabuthiri Township race handily, beating out one National Unity Party opponent in an election boycotted by the NLD and widely viewed as fraudulent.
The NLD won all four seats that it contested in Naypyidaw in the 2012 by-election.