Fighting in Western Myanmar Disrupts Voter List Posting Ahead of Election

By Lei Lei 4 August 2020

YANGON—Election authorities in Myanmar are still unable to post preliminary voter lists publicly for the upcoming election in most of Chin State’s Paletwa Township due to armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA), according to township election sub-commission chair U San Thar Kyaw.

“Preliminary voter lists could be displayed in only 50 out of 120 wards and village-tracts because we could not go to many places due to security concerns. It is not safe for us to travel and we can’t run the voter list display,” said U San Thar Kyaw.

Election authorities normally collect the names and personal information of eligible voters and display them in each ward or village-tract so that voters can check the information. Voters may correct the information before the election authorities finalize the list in October.

Over 60,000 out of Paletwa’s 108,512 residents are eligible to vote in the 2020 general election—an increase of 10,000 compared to the 2015 general election. Meanwhile, there are over 4,000 displaced people taking shelter in urban Paletwa, around 3,000 of whom are eligible voters.

Authorities compile voter lists based mainly on data from household registration lists from the Ministry of Immigration and Population and logbooks received from the General Administrative Department.

U San Thar Kyaw said that voters in the townships where lists have not been displayed will not lose their suffrage and can still check with relevant ward and village-tract election sub-commissions to make sure they are included in the voter lists.

However, even in places where voter lists have been posted, there are complaints from voters about errors in personal information such as birthdates and addresses.

“As we can’t run the preliminary voter list display in all the villages, we have to run it in urban areas,” said Chin State Municipal Minister U Soe Htet.

U Kyaw Nyein, a candidate from the Chin National League for Democracy running for a Lower House seat in Paletwa, said security is a key question for holding elections in Paletwa.

“For the time being, there are places that can’t be travelled to upstream on the Kaladan River due to security concerns. If [the government] has the goodwill to hold the election in Paletwa, it should provide full security,” he said.

He added that if the government can’t ensure that all eligible voters can cast votes, it is fair to say that the would-be lawmaker of Paletwa won’t really be elected by the people.

“There is a need to provide security so that local residents can choose according to their wishes,” he added.

The AA has asked the government to negotiate with them if it wants to hold the election in Paletwa. “I doubt the government will negotiate with them,” U Kyaw Nyein said.

“I don’t want voters to lose their suffrage. Every citizen has the right to vote,” said Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) spokesperson Dr. Nanda Hla Myint. “Every vote counts for political parties. The authorities concerned should work for regional stability so that people do not lose these rights.”

According to the Union Election Commission, preliminary voter lists are to be displayed for 14 days, beginning July 25, at ward and village-tract administration offices.

A total of four parties—the National League for Democracy, the USDP, the CNLD and the Khumi National Party—will contest five seats representing Paletwa in the coming election—one in the Lower House and two each in the Upper House and the Chin State parliament.

The current Chin State Municipal Affairs Minister U Soe Htet of the NLD will run for a seat in Chin State parliament and current Upper House lawmaker U Whei Tun will run for a seat in the Upper House.

“We don’t know if the voter lists were displayed. We know nothing,” said local resident of Paletwa’s Kuu Wa Village Daw Than. “We will cast votes if we are asked to. As we are struggling just to make ends meet, we have no time to take an interest in it.”

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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