RANGOON — The incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has distributed more gifts on the campaign trail than its political opponents, according to an independent election monitoring group.
Releasing its preliminary findings into the two-month campaign for the Nov. 8 general election, the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) said on Tuesday that campaign workers had handed out food, money and clothing during some rallies.
“When we compared the USDP and other parties, we found the USDP was distributing more food, small presents, clothing and money,” said Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, executive director of PACE.
PACE visited 129 townships across the country, observing more than 1,600 rallies and conducting over 2,600 interviews with candidates, voters and election officials between Sept. 8 and Oct. 18.
The report found similar trends of the ruling party distributing gifts in “hotspot” townships, which it classified as parts of the country experiencing high levels of migration, ongoing conflict, inter-communal tensions or the presence of high profile candidates.
PACE said that incidents of incitement on the campaign stump were comparatively rare. Its study showed candidates made demeaning or provocative comments about their opponents at 7 percent of rallies, while incidents where candidates made inciting remarks about race, religion or gender occurred at only 2 percent of the rallies it attended.
While the overwhelming majority of candidates interviewed by PACE said that they had not faced any threats or disruption to their campaign activities, media reports had shown that some had been subjected to physical violence and prevented from campaigning in parts of the country.
The Irrawaddy has catalogued a number of instances of violence, intimidation and incitement on the campaign trail, largely directed at candidates from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said that PACE did not have the mandate to file specific complaints of campaign misconduct with the Union Election Commission (UEC), but said the commission should take steps to uphold the law and protect the integrity of the Nov. 8 poll.
“Small attacks, incitement on issues of gender or race…should be prevented from growing bigger over the next two weeks by having monitoring groups check adherence to the (election) code of conduct, and the UEC should be using the code of conduct effectively,” he said. “
The group has urged the UEC to address inflammatory comments during campaign rallies and political parties avoid using legal measures to resolve disputes that could be settled through mediation.