Election 2020

Military’s Call for Copies of Voting Documents ‘Unlawful’: Myanmar’s Election Body

By San Yamin Aung 8 December 2020

YANGON— Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has rejected as “unlawful” the military’s call for the agency to instruct its sub-commissions to provide copies of election-related documents to facilitate the military’s review of the Nov. 8 vote.

After the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won another landslide victory in the Nov. 8 election, the losing military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and its allied parties—all of which faced humiliating defeats at the polls— rejected the election outcome.

Despite international and domestic election observers reporting no major irregularities in the voting, the losing parties cried foul over the election, claiming it was “unfair” and “marred by mass fraud”.

Responding to the proxy party’s claims of fraud, the military (or Tatmadaw) announced on Nov. 30 that after learning of election-related disputes across the country it would scrutinize and review the electoral process in 218 townships where military personnel and their family members cast votes to determine whether the election was conducted in accordance with the law.

Depending on the findings of its review, voters from the constituencies in question will file objections to any electoral irregularities discovered, the Tatmadaw said.

It also asked the UEC to issue the necessary directives for the military to obtain documents related to voting by military personnel, in order to facilitate the Tatmadaw’s review of the electoral process—saying its goal is “to recognize a free and fair election without suspicion.”

In a statement on Monday evening, the UEC said that voters from military units had asked for permission to copy documents relating to lists of voters in Myanmar and overseas; applications for advance voting, both inside and outside constituencies; votes for each candidate (both advance votes and those cast on election day); rejected votes; and unused ballots from township sub-commissions, in giving their reasons for submitting electoral objections.

The military’s Northern Command also asked the Kachin State Election Sub-Commission on Nov. 29 for 11 kinds of election documents, including voter lists from 127 polling stations attended by members of its military units, saying it wanted to keep the documents for its records, the UEC said.

The commission replied in the statement that the original voter lists were no longer kept at the township election commissions. According to election laws, voter lists and election documents must be sent to district sub-commissions, sealed and stored, it said.

It added that moreover, the election laws and by-laws do not stipulate that requests for copies of election documents must be honored.

“Therefore, we won’t issue unlawful directives to provide copies of election-related documents,” the UEC said.

The military has also cited provisions of the Evidence Act in its request to the UEC that the necessary directives be given to election sub-commissions allowing them to copy the public documents.

The UEC said that according to the country’s election laws, the election tribunal should apply provisions of the Evidence Act “only when inspections are made [following] electoral complaints”.

In a separate statement issued on Monday evening, the UEC also turned down a request by the USDP’s Yangon Region branch for copies of electoral documents including voter lists in the region’s 45 townships.

The USDP has lodged more than 1,000 objections and complaints over alleged incidents of electoral malpractice nationwide within a month.

Daw Mya Nandar Thin, executive director of local election monitoring group the New Myanmar Foundation, said the group hoped the election commission would make electoral data such as election results from each polling station more available on the commission’s website for poll monitors, media and political parties. Currently, the commission is releasing information on the votes for candidates in each constituency via state-run newspapers.

She added, however, that regarding the military’s request, some have raised concerns that it could pose a threat to individual military personnel and their family members, who are free to vote for the candidates of their choice.

In last month’s general election, military personnel and their family members voted outside their military compounds for the first time. In previous elections, they could vote only at polling stations inside military camps under the watchful eyes of their superiors.

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