Despite Disruptive Flooding, Candidate Submissions Approach 4,000

By San Yamin Aung 10 August 2015

RANGOON — Four days ahead of the deadline for general election candidate submissions, nearly 4,000 names from 78 parties, along with more than 100 independents, have officially filed candidacy applications with Burma’s electoral body.

Last week the Union Election Commission (UEC) extended the deadline for candidate applications from Aug. 8 to this Friday, citing the logistic challenges posed by severe flooding across much of the country in recent weeks. The deadline was moved back after some parties made requests for more time, arguing that they were struggling to get their candidate lists together in some of the areas affected by flooding.

The UEC reported that as of Sunday, it had received 1,123 applications for the Union Parliament’s Lower House, 579 for the Upper House, and 2,252 for state and divisional legislatures, including 119 submissions for seats allocated to ethnic affairs representatives. A total of 78 parties and 148 independent parliamentary hopefuls had filed for candidacy through Sunday.

Despite the UEC decision to extend the deadline for candidate submissions by one week, some parties based in areas hardest hit by a combination of widespread flooding and debilitating landslides are still concerned about their ability to meet the Friday cutoff.

Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, secretary of the Chin National Democratic Party, said most of the candidates in his state, which is one of the worst-affected regions in the country, were still in the process of traveling to their respective district electoral subcommission offices to file applications to contend.

“The transportation is really difficult there, and the phone lines don’t work there. So, we worry about their ability to meet the deadline. Only four days are left now,” Salai Ceu Bik Thawng said, adding that while the party would try its best to meet the deadline, candidates who were ultimately unable to meet the cutoff would appeal for more time, given the exceptional circumstances.

The party will run for about 55 seats in Chin and Arakan states, and Sagaing and Magwe divisions, all of which have been declared disaster zones by the government. Twenty-two candidates from the Chin National Democratic Party have submitted their applications thus far, according to the UEC.

As of Sunday, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had submitted the most candidate applications, putting forward 1,008 names. The National Unity Party (NUP) was running a distant second, having submitted 644 candidates, with Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), registering 623 candidates so far.

The commission will scrutinize candidates from Aug. 18-27, and parties can withdraw their nominations until Aug. 17.

The UEC has said that elections will be held on Nov. 8 for a total of 1,171 seats nationwide, comprising 168 constituencies in the Upper House, 330 in the Lower House and 673 seats in state and divisional legislatures. Ongoing conflicts in some parts of the country including northern Shan State and Kachin State, however, mean not all races are likely to take place.