RANGOON — A total of 6,062 candidates have been approved by Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) to participate in a Nov. 8 general election, slashing more than 100 hopefuls from the roster but sparing all ruling party applicants.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) rounded out with the highest number of approved candidates at 1,134, including many incumbents and a few new faces.
The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), came in a close second with 1,130 parliamentary aspirants, after registering 1,138, the highest number of applications.
Hardest hit by far was the Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), a Rohingya party that put forth 18 candidates. Only one was approved.
“We, the UEC, didn’t reject the candidates,” said UEC director Hla Maung Cho, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday. “The respective sub-commissions did the scrutiny.”
Rejected applicants could appeal to their state or division-level sub-commissions, the official said, but only those who sought appointment as an ethnic affairs representative have the right to appeal to the Union level election board.
The vast majority of the rejections were grounded on the candidates not being able to prove that their parents were citizens at the time of their birth, he added, while others did not meet the age threshold for their respective seats.
Rejection of so many DHRP members raised alarm for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that the party was founded by and mostly comprises Rohingya Muslims, a largely stateless minority in western Burma’s Arakan State.
Many of the party’s candidates intended to contest in the northern part of the state, which has suffered several rounds of deadly inter-communal riots since 2012 that overwhelmingly affected Muslims.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, who previously had a form of identification called a white card, were stripped of their documents and their right to vote earlier this year as part of a citizenship scrutiny drive. Rohingya white card holders were allowed to vote in past elections.
Beyond the outrage of losing a right they previously held, DHRP party members feared that the party would lose its registration by virtue of a three-candidate minimum for political parties.
Hla Maung Cho told The Irrawaddy that as long as the registered party submitted applications for at least three people, “it’s fine.”
“They won’t be delisted because their candidates were turned down,” he said.
Another notable exclusion was Rohingya candidate Shwe Maung, who was elected in 2010 as a member of the USDP. Despite his eligibility just a few years ago, he was recently informed that he could no longer participate in the polls.
Also of note was the inclusion of USDP candidate Thein Nyunt, who the NLD claimed was the son of non-citizens. The UEC responded that by the time the complaint was made it was already too late to re-evaluate his application, according to local media.
A total of 6,189 candidates applied to the UEC in mid-August. The final list includes 1,740 contestants for the Lower House, 886 for the Upper House and 3,436 seeking seats in state or divisional legislatures.