In Meeting With Election Body, NLD Complains of Voter Verification ‘Obstruction’

By San Yamin Aung 7 July 2015

RANGOON — In a second meeting between the National League for Democracy and the Union Election Commission (UEC) this week, Burma’s main opposition party complained of obstruction from some subcommissions as NLD cadres have sought to ensure an accurate roster of eligible voters ahead of a general election due in some four months’ time.

Representatives from the NLD said UEC officials pledged to address the party’s concerns on Monday at the UEC’s headquarters in Naypyidaw, where the two sides met to discuss an ongoing effort to verify the personal data of more than 30 million eligible voters in Burma.

Tun Tun Hein, who heads up the NLD’s voter list reviewing committee, told UEC officials that the party had encountered resistance to its voter list verification drive in townships from Naypyidaw and Mon State to the capital of Karen State, Hpa-an.

The obstruction included subcommission officials curtailing some voter verification campaigns and prohibiting the party’s efforts to copy voter lists, as well as refusing to accept forms filed by voters to correct their personal data on the rosters.

Last week, two NLD leaders were accused of trespassing during their door-to-door voter education efforts in Naypyidaw.

“We have to communicate with the various commission levels during voter verification. We dealt with some obstruction and unpleasant responses from the subcommissions; we complained about those [incidents to the UEC],” Tun Tun Hein said.

“Some subcommissions don’t want to distribute the [personal data correction] forms to us. But the voters have said they have no time to fill the forms out for corrections. So, if we can use the forms and help voters to fill them out during our door-to-door visits, it is faster,” he said, adding that the commission had agreed with the NLD’s position on the issue.

Tun Tun Hein said that in addition to presenting the commission with the difficulties faced during the party’s voter awareness efforts, NLD representatives also urged the UEC to ensure a speedy conclusion to the voter verification process, and consider ways to make it more inclusive.

The NLD also asked the UEC to make its verification process less comprehensive, arguing that the current nine fields of personal data contained on the voter lists could be reduced to an essential four pieces of data without compromising the integrity of the verification process.

Win Myint, a member of the NLD’s central committee, said that in some more remote constituencies, voters were facing difficulties because they lacked easy access to a photocopier to copy their household registration certificate, which must accompany any submission filed by voters seeking a correction to their personal data.

“They accept the photocopier problem and said they will reconsider” whether requiring the photocopy is necessary, Win Myint said.

The NLD leader said the UEC also sought to showcase its own determination to ensure accurate voter lists, citing its plan to consider issuing a one-off “voter card” identification document to those who don’t have a national registration certificate but are otherwise citizens entitled to vote, and a decision taken last week to extend the preliminary voter list display period.

Tun Tun Hein, who is also a member of the opposition party’s central committee, said that since the NLD’s first meeting with the UEC on June 3, party members had seen an improved approach to voter verification from some but not all subcommissions.

“The commission told us to phone them immediately if we face obstacles and they will resolve that,” he said.

As the country’s landmark general election approaches, concern has mounted over the UEC’s capacity to compile accurate eligible voter lists, with civil society groups and political parties raising the issue since a first batch of error-ridden voter lists was made public in March.

The NLD has been making door-to-door visits to a number of constituencies since mid-April to check people’s names against the preliminary voter lists. The party has mobilized its members to help people file the forms required to amend inaccuracies as the extent of the problem has become apparent.

NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi joined the party’s door-to-door campaign in Naypyidaw late last month and visited her Kawhmu Township constituency on Saturday to inject momentum into the voter verification drive.
Shwe Mann, Union Parliament speaker and chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), also stopped by his constituency over the weekend to check voter lists posted in Naypyidaw’s Zeyarthiri Township, according to a post to his Facebook page.

He said he would send a letter to UEC chairman Tin Aye notifying the election chief of his findings, which included accounts from several voters of inaccuracies on the rosters.