RANGOON — The Union Election Commission has played down concerns over an advance vote dispute in the Lower House seat of Lashio in northern Shan State, saying the media had “misunderstood” the issue which could potentially be handled by the body’s complaints mechanism in due course.
Shwe Hla, election campaign manager with the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Lashio, said three political parties had filed a complaint with the township election commission on Sunday over the late delivery of thousands of advance votes, the vast majority of which were reportedly in favor of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Shwe Hla said township election authorities said the votes arrived from military cantonment areas.
“We are asking the commission to reject those votes. We do not accept these advance votes and we did not sign to recognize them when the election commission asked us. We believe that those votes did not come from the military, but that [an individual] wrote them and put them in the box,” he said.
Vice-president and Lower House candidate in Lashio, Sai Mauk Kham, received over 3,800 advance votes in his favor, Shwe Hla said, which reportedly arrived after polling closed on Sunday at 4 pm.
Asked by reporters about the issue at a press conference on Tuesday, UEC chairman Tin Aye replied: “In fact, you guys misunderstood.”
However, the chairman said little that would put the issue to bed on Tuesday.
“We can ask people in Lashio. Advance votes that arrived after 4 pm [in Lashio]; they were in envelopes. They were not in ballot boxes,” he said.
Under the commission’s election regulations, for advance votes to be considered valid, they were required to be lodged before polls opened at 6 am.
UEC official Myint Naing told journalists in Naypyidaw that candidates and voters could submit complaints to their local election commissions in the immediate post-poll period over alleged election irregularities.
“We will officially announce the percentage of voters and the amount of confirmed and invalid votes. They [candidates or voters] can submit complaints within 45 days after we officially announce the results of the poll. We will review and decide then,” said Myint Naing.
“Polling officials decide which votes are invalid and confirmed. Candidates or their representatives can even witness why votes were invalidated at polling stations if they want. So this system won’t negatively impact candidates.”
On Tuesday, a European Union election observation team released a preliminary statement on the conduct of Sunday’s vote, finding that the process for advance voting “lacked transparency” and adequate safeguards and that observers were “denied the right to observe out-of-constituency voting in military barracks.”
“There were complaints about advance voting in the past. Now we have tried to avoid this problem and make it transparent. We systematically arranged advance voting. There is no reason that it [election] is not transparent,” Myint Naing said.