NLD Questions Advance Voting by Myanmar’s Military in Kachin State
By Thiha Lwin 6 October 2020
Naypyitaw — Candidates from the National League for Democracy (NLD) have asked the Union Election Commission (UEC) to verify the early votes of military personnel and their relatives in Kachin State’s Tanai Township.
There are 32,530 voters in Tanai, over 2,000 of whom are military personnel and their relatives, according to the township election sub-commission. Of the military personnel and their relatives, 892 will cast advance votes as they are reportedly outside the constituency.
The NLD’s Tanai Township Lower House candidate, U Lin Lin Oo, said they have asked the UEC to check if those who registered for early voting actually exist.
“The voter population is low in Tanai. Military personnel and their relatives account for one-16th of the voters. As they said, 892 of them will vote early and we are concerned that there won’t be transparency,” said U Lin Lin Oo.
He won the seat in 2015 from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with a small majority of 189. On election day in 2015, 500 advance votes that reportedly came from military personnel and their relatives arrived at the polling station and all the votes were cast for a single party, he said.
“All those 500 votes were cast for the candidates of one political party,” he said.
Myanmar’s military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said the early voting of military personnel and their relatives in Tanai was organized in line with election law and they have to cast advance votes due to military activity.
“[Election law] allows early voting in case of the need for military operations and transfers. We didn’t send any [extra] troops there [to boost the vote],” he told The Irrawaddy.
Tanai Township Election Sub-Commission said early voting is carried out in line with Lower House Election regulations and the process has been verified by the election sub-commissions at different levels.
“The battalion commander sent the list of the military personnel and their family members who are outside the constituency and asked permission for advance voting, with responsibility and accountability,” said the secretary of the sub-commission, U Kyaw Thet Paing.
Then the commission checked it against the lists of civilian voters in their wards and villages to make sure the military voters are not included on civilian voter lists. Only 12 Tanai civilians have registered for early voting and three of them are outside the country.
In 2015, nine parties, including the NLD, USDP and ethnic Kachin parties, contested the Tanai seat. It was a tightly contested race between the then ruling USDP and the NLD, but the latter secured both seats in the Union Parliament with small majorities.
Of two seats representing Tanai in the Kachin State parliament, one was secured by the NLD and another by the then Kachin State chief minister, La John Ngan Sai, from the USDP, which is widely viewed as the military’s proxy.
Constituency 1 in Tanai, where La John Ngan Sai won in 2015, was the home to several military units. U Lin Lin Oo said more than 2,000 military voters are registered in the constituency.
NLD member U Myo Yan Naung Thein warned about early voting, saying that the NLD may lose in constituencies with small populations and large military deployments.
Tanai Regional Operations Command is also headquartered in Tanai and there are at least 10 military units under the command in Tanai.
For the first time since 2010, personnel and their relatives will cast votes outside the barracks.
The NLD, the USDP, the Kachin State’s People Party, United Democratic Party, National Unity Party, Lisu National Development Party and Naga National Party will contest the poll in Tanai in November.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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