Election 2020

Myanmar’s Election Body Complains About Military Chief’s Voting Advice

By Htet Naing Zaw 20 October 2020

Naypyitaw — Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has objected to military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s six principles for picking candidates being repeatedly published in the Myawady Daily, the military’s mouthpiece.

Publication of the military chief’s views on candidates violates the 2008 Constitution and election laws as his comments are seen as an instruction and vote solicitation to all military personnel, the UEC said.

The voting principles were suggested by the military chief during a meeting with the leaders of 34 political parties in Naypyitaw on Aug. 14 and were quoted by the military mouthpiece each day until the UEC complained.

He suggested voting for those who will bring practical benefits to Myanmar, have a sense of the rule of law and abide by the rules, understand the “national political leadership role of Myanmar’s military”, can protect race and religion and are not under foreign influence.

The UEC filed a complaint with the Myanmar Press Council on Aug. 31, which intervened, said council secretary U Kyaw Swar Min.

“The UEC filed a complaint saying the quotes in the Myawady Daily violated election laws. We contacted the Tatmadaw [military], which said it would stop publishing the comments,” he said.

Citing Chapter 13 of the Election Law and Article 364 of the 2008 Constitution, the UEC’s complaint to the press council said it is prohibited to solicit votes by abusing religion and race.

“The Myawady Daily stopped publishing the quotes after the UEC filed a complaint,” said U Kyaw Swar Min.

Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) spokesman Dr. Nanda Hla Myint said the military chief just gave advice to vote for candidates in the interests of the country and people.

“The UEC did not need to respond that way. It is not its business. Its job is to hold a free and fair election. It can object if [the military chief] backs the NLD [National League for Democracy] or USDP,” he said.

The NLD’s information secretary Monywa Aung Shin said it had been noticed that the military chief had started to talk to his personnel about candidates.

“It is something that should be opposed, so the UEC complained. I am happy that it was settled,” he said.

Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said he had no comment about the issue. He told The Irrawaddy in August that the military conducts voter education campaigns by sharing the UEC’s election instructions and holding discussions with personnel.

In a significant departure from previous elections, military personnel and their relatives will vote in polling stations outside military land in most constituencies.

The UEC has also recently drawn criticisms over canceling voting in numerous constituencies in Rakhine and Shan states and elsewhere for security reasons.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko