Election Commission Postpones Voter List Review

By San Yamin Aung 24 August 2015

RANGOON— The Union Election Commission (UEC) has postponed a planned public review of voter lists that was due to commence on Sunday, claiming logistical difficulties posed by the country’s recent flooding disaster.

With 11 weeks left before November’s landmark general election, UEC director Thein Oo told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the fortnight-long nationwide voter list display, originally scheduled between Aug. 23 and Sept. 6, will instead be held at some point later in September.

“We postponed it because of recent flood crisis. Voters in flood-affected areas wouldn’t be interested in checking their names on the list at the moment, and now is the time to focus on rehabilitation there,” he said.

Thein Oo said on Monday that an exact time for the voter list display had yet to be confirmed by the commission, but added that there would be avenues of appeal for eligible voters still omitted from the UEC’s records, and that Burmese nationals living outside their township electorates would be given until Oct. 10 to register.

“The voter lists which will be displayed this time have been revised with corrections submitted during preliminary voter list display periods. The voters can check again whether their information is correct or not. If not, they can apply to enroll again.”

The preliminary lists, released in four phases from March,were criticized by political parties and civil society groups, who said that the voter rosters were riddled with errors and risked potentially disenfranchising millions of people if left uncorrected. The opposition National League for Democracy claimed in June that 30-80 percent of voter list data in various Rangoon and Naypyidaw townships was inaccurate, prompting UEC chairman Tin Aye to admit that the preliminary lists contained “many errors”.

Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, executive director of the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) monitoring group, said his organization would observe the public display of voter lists in 110 townships across Burma.

“We will monitor the process of the nationwide voter lists display and keep track of other important incidents, such as the closing of the sub-commission offices, threats, and insufficient complaint forms at the sub-commission offices through two weeks,” he said, referring to a raft of complaints directed at the UEC during the publication of preliminary voter lists.

Earlier in August, the UEC pushed back the deadline for the submission of candidate applications in response to floods that ravaged large swathes of northern and western Burma and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Nearly 1.6 million people have been affected by landslides and the inundation of villages, and at least 110 people have died, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

The UEC’s candidate scrutiny process has also been extended, with the commission’s vetting of applications to contest the poll now expected to conclude on Aug. 31.