RANGOON — On the eve of Burma’s landmark general election, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) urged voters to keep calm in the event of voting irregularities, as many are expected to be excluded from the Nov. 8 vote.
“It is a great loss for people to be disenfranchised,” read a statement released by the party on Saturday, emphasizing the importance of keeping the peace even if citizens arrive at polling stations to find that they are not on the eligible voter list.
“Overwhelmed by a sense of grievance, they may talk and respond emotionally,” the statement continued. “People should be aware that such emotional behaviors and responses may work in the favor of certain persons and organizations. People need to avoid such emotional behaviors and responses, especially near the polling stations.”
Disenfranchisement has become a theme of the pre-election period, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims lost their right to vote earlier this year and polls have been cancelled in hundreds of village tracts due to conflict. Even in areas of relative stability, reports of inflated and erroneous voter lists have been reported throughout the country.
Most recently, a local administrator in Rangoon’s Thaketa Township told The Irrawaddy that some 1,600 people in his constituency found themselves excluded, mostly those living in informal settlements. Such complaints have abounded in recent weeks.
The NLD has been the most vocal critic of the Union Election Commission’s (UEC) handling of irregularities, and just last week issued a directive to its campaign teams to uncover “phantom voters” that seemed to appear on rosters in constituencies where senior government officials were running for re-election.
Voter lists have been the focus of intense scrutiny in the run-up to the poll, as flawed rosters were among the main criticisms of Burma’s last general election in 2010, which was broadly dismissed as fraudulent.
Since the initial rollout of voter list displays earlier this year, the UEC has offered various explanations for discrepancies, most recently attributing errors to software provided by international technical support teams.
The NLD statement urged those affected by irregularities to seek legal recourse after the polls are over.
“Election commissions at different levels are obliged to make sure every citizen is enfranchised. And it is legitimate to take legal actions against the failure to fulfilling that responsibility,” the statement read.