Myanmar Authorities Say Election Boycott Campaign May Face Legal Action
By Htun Htun 12 August 2020
YANGON—Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has said that any attempt to call for a boycott of the country’s November election violates election law, according to commission member U Myint Naing.
Some Myanmar voters have recently called on their fellow citizens not to vote in the general election, which is scheduled for Nov. 8, complaining that the National League for Democracy (NLD) government has been unable to fulfill the expectations of voters who supported the party in the 2015 general election.
In recent weeks, the calls have gradually grown into a “No Vote” campaign, prompting a debate on social media over the legality of urging people not to cast votes in the election.
According to Article 2 (n) of the Election Law, the right to vote is defined as the right of a person to vote or to refrain from voting in the election. But according to the UEC, encouraging others not to vote in the election violates Articles 57, 58 (b) and (d), 60 and 61 (b) and (c) of the Election Law.
“To vote or not to vote is the right of an individual, but encouraging others not to vote violates those articles,” said U Myint Naing.
Article 57 criminalizes the use of violence, threats, undue influence, cheating and taking or giving of bribes to prevent a person from exercising the right to vote or run in an election. Article 58 (b) criminalizes threatening a candidate or a voter to prevent them from freely exercising their voting rights.
Article 60 criminalizes disturbing any eligible voter so as to prevent them from casting a vote on election day. Article 61 (b) bars soliciting a voter to vote or exhorting and inducing them not to vote for a Parliament candidate. Article 61 (c) bars exhorting and inducing someone to vote or not vote in the election.
All the articles carry a possible sentence of one year in prison and a fine of 100,000 kyats (US$72.90).
U Myint Naing said that complaints regarding these electoral offences can be filed with the police.
Article 65 (b) of the Election Law says voters, candidates, election agents and members of election sub-commissions and polling stations can file complaints with credible evidence about electoral offenses before or during the election and within 15 days after election day.
When asked if election authorities will take action against the “No Vote” campaign, U Myint Naing said, “We will act in line with the law. There are legal provisions. That’s all I want to say.”
According to the UEC, some 37 million people are eligible to cast votes in the November election.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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