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VOTING

Parties Dispute Huge USDP Advance Vote in Arakan Garrison Seat

Losing candidates have refused to sign off on two contests in Ann, one involving the former chief minister, after advance votes put the USDP ahead of its rivals.  


RANGOON — Losing candidates have refused to sign off on two contests in Arakan State, one involving the former chief minister, after the count of advance votes put the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) ahead of its rivals.

Both seats are in Ann Township, home to the military’s Western Command. Advance votes in both contests would have overwhelmingly come from service personnel and their families.

National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate Zaw Win Myint, who is now trailing former Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn in the state seat of Ann No. 1, said he refused to sign the Union Election Commission’s Form 19, which candidates are required to sign to finalize the results of an individual race.

He told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that he suspected fraud in the race, based on the similar way in which advance ballots were folded and proportion of the advance votes for the outgoing ruling party.

At present, Maung Maung Ohn is leading on 9,545 votes, of which 2,322 were cast in advance. Zaw Win Myint had 8,429 votes, of which only 373 were cast in advance. Khin Hla Yee, who was contesting the seat for the Arakan National Party and who was interviewed by The Irrawaddy in September, was roundly defeated with only 3,184 votes.

Zaw Win Myint said he informed the NLD’s state headquarters that he was disputing the result, but had yet to receive a reply.

In Ann Township’s Lower House Union seat, advance votes tipped USDP candidate Thein Swe, who won 13,037 votes, ahead of ANP candidate Kyaw Than Hlaing, who won 12,452. The USDP candidate received 1,459 advance votes while the ANP received just 80, decisively swinging the contest.

“I did not sign off on the election result record form because of suspicious things I had found,” Kyaw Thein Hlaing told The Irrawaddy. “Our party observers were denied in more than 15 places by polling station officers. The (UEC) also rejected several votes as invalid. We asked them to check these again but they rejected our appeal.”

“I noticed that all advance ballots were folded the same and the ticks were similar”, he added.

Concerns over advance votes have also been raised in Lashio, Taunggyi and Myitkyina, respectively the homes of the military’s North Eastern, Eastern and Northern commands, along with a sizeable proportion of military voters and their families.

Unlike the above contests, advance votes in Ann Township arrived before polls opened on Sunday. The UEC’s election bylaws state that advance votes received after 6am are invalid. This has not stopped the commission from officially declaring Vice President Dr. Sai Mauk Kham the winner of the Lower House seat of Lashio.

In October, The Irrawaddy reported that battalion commanders had instructed the families of service personnel to vote in military cantonments, alongside allegations that officers were using coercion and threats to press soldiers to vote for the USDP.

Zaw Aye Maung, a member of the ANP and Arakanese ethnic affairs minister for Rangoon Division, told The Irrawaddy on Monday the party was on track to take 25 of 47 seats in the Arakan State parliament and form the next government.