The chairman of the Union Election Commission (UEC) said he wants collaboration with political parties and local administrative bodies to ensure the 2015 general election will be free and fair.
Tin Aye explained to leaders of 27 political parties about his organization’s activities and preparations for the looming national ballot during a meeting in Rangoon on Thursday. The 63-year-old said that “real-time ballot list adjustment” will be developed for 2015 as there were weaknesses in the ballot-list in this year’s by-election, according to state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar.
Han Thar Myint, a secretariat member of the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Friday that “the meeting was to open space for political parties and the commission to share views.”
Party leaders also raised their concerns about the UEC’s rules on candidates, ballots stations, the early voting list and their participation in the national peace-building process. Tin Aye said foreign investment is about to arrive with the lifting of sanctions and so political parties will be expected to collaborate towards national development.
The NLD accepts that foreign investment must be welcomed but insists that it is important to enact specific laws which provide guarantees for investors, said Han Thar Myint.
“The commission chairman urged political parties to abide by the law when we assist farmers or worker strikes or power shortage protests,” said Nay Myo Wai, the chairman of the Peace and Diversity Party, which has been supporting farmers protesting land grabs for industrial zone projects.
“We do not deny what he suggested,” he said. “But we are the people who act as checks and balances between justice and development so it is important to see that we are not anti-development activists.”
“Tin Aye said, ‘it is right that parties help those strike workers,’” added Nay Myo Wai. “But we were told to beware of the situation if factories are forced to close due to the strength of strikes.”
Party leaders also suggested being including in the peace-building process with ethnic armed groups, but complained that current UEC laws restrict them from dealing with rebel organizations who are nevertheless communicating with the government.
The politicians suggested publishing the advance voting list in front of each ballot station, to publicize UEC announcements as a handbook and have meetings with parties every three or four months.
According to the UEC’s plan, there will be a ballot station for every 200 voters, but party members suggested having more voters per station.
“Creating more ballot stations means needing more vote-counting officials,” said Khin Maung Swe, the chairman of the National Democratic Force. “That creates an imbalance for small parties as they do not have enough manpower to send members to monitor the count.”
Other general discussions included reimbursing the candidate deposit of 500,000 kyat (US $580) that everyone standing for office must pay in advance of the poll. During the 1990 general election, those who won had their deposits returned while those who lost were also partially reimbursed depending on the number of votes they received. In the 2010 general election and 2012 by-elections, however, no candidate had their deposit returned.
The meeting on Thursday was attended by the NLD, ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party as well as all ethnic and democratic parties. Four months ago, ex-Lt-Gen Tin Aye warned five political parties to stay away from the power shortage protests and worker strikes across the country.