Burma on Track for November Vote, Challenges Remain: Election Commission

By Reuters 27 May 2015

RANGOON — Burma plans to go ahead with an election in November despite the challenges it faces in completing an electoral roll in the many areas of the country that have suffered ethnic conflict, the country’s election commission chairman said on Tuesday.

The country is gearing up for a historic election in November, the first free vote in 25 years and a milestone in the country’s transition to democracy after 49 years of military rule ended in 2010.

“The election will be in November,” Tin Aye, chairman of Burma’s Union Election Commission, told reporters on Tuesday.

The commission will announce the actual polling date in August, he added.

Among the challenges is completing a full electoral roll that includes voters in camps for internally displaced people in areas that have seen ethnic conflict, and the millions of citizens living abroad, Tin Aye said.

A patchwork of ethnic insurgencies has bedeviled Burma since its independence in 1948.

Similar challenges prevented the completion of the nation’s first census in 30 years in 2014, when the country registered 51.4 million people, some 10 million less than expected.

Candidate and constituency lists will be announced in September, Tin Aye said, and election campaigning will be permitted for 60 days.

Any referendum on the constitution should be held at a later date, he said.

There has been some discussion among leading political figures on holding a referendum at the same time as the vote to amend the controversial charter, which reserves considerable power for the country’s military and bans Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

But a referendum must have the support of the military, and politicians have yet to identify which items of the constitution they would consider changing.