Election 2020

Despite Law Changes, Myanmar Military Says Some Polling Stations Will Remain in Barracks

By San Yamin Aung 27 July 2020

YANGON—Polling stations for military personnel and their families will have to remain inside military compounds for the upcoming election in some areas, a spokesman for Myanmar’s military said on Saturday, despite recent changes to electoral by-laws requiring the military to move the stations outside of its bases.

In a departure from previous elections, the amendments to the electoral by-laws mean that military personnel and their family members will be able to cast their votes outside the barracks. The move was widely welcomed by poll monitors and political parties as boosting transparency and potentially creating an environment for fairer results in the Nov. 8 poll.

Yet, during a press conference in Naypyitaw on Saturday, Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said that circumstances on the ground would make it impossible for some polling stations to be moved out of military cantonment areas. He didn’t provide further details, however.

“Some polling stations are convenient to move outside [bases]. But some are not. In any case, we have said before that we will abide by the rules set by the election commission,” he told reporters.

Voting at military polling stations has long been a source of doubt and electoral disputes due to a lack of transparency, because the military limits monitoring of voting on bases for “security reasons”.

Among other things, the amendments to the electoral by-laws passed in May seek to boost transparency by requiring that polling stations for military personnel be moved outside of military bases so that Tatmadaw personnel and their families can vote with civilians, in compliance with accepted norms for free and fair elections.

At Saturday’s press conference, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun repeated the military chief’s vow that the Tatmadaw will do whatever it can to ensure a free and fair election.

He added that the military is ready to assist with security and logistical matters in conflict areas during the election period.

The Irrawaddy contacted the spokespersons for the military and the Union Election Commission on Monday to ask about the military polling stations, but neither was available for comment.

There are over 1 million military-affiliated voters in Myanmar, including both the armed forces’ estimated 500,000 personnel and their relatives.

Regarding the number of military personnel who will be eligible to vote in this year’s general election, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said on Saturday that the Tatmadaw will send its compiled list to the election commission soon.

He said that unlike in previous elections, it is unlikely that we will see high-ranking military officers running in the election.

Shortly before the 2010 and 2015 general elections, several senior military officers retired in order to run in the polls, representing the military-backed former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

He added that as of July 25, no military officers had retired in order to run in the election.

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