Landmark YCDC Election Campaigns Underway

By San Yamin Aung 19 November 2014

RANGOON — The first candidates in more than 50 years to run for municipal office in Rangoon have begun preparations for campaigns that will conclude late next month ahead of a landmark election set for Dec. 27.

The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) has opened up a total of 115 seats on committees at the divisional, district and township levels of Burma’s biggest city. Since a military coup in 1962, these 115 seats had been appointed by the country’s former military regimes.

However, the nine-member Divisional Municipal Committee will still be comprised of five appointed seats, and the municipal voter rolls will be limited to one vote per household.

The elections will be held on Dec. 27, and candidates are permitted to campaign up until one day before the poll.

“I will start campaigning at the end of this month. Now, I am preparing pamphlets and posters,” said Aung Hla, an approved candidate for a Township Municipal Committee who serves on a local fire brigade.

He said that during the campaign, he would inform voters of his biography.

“I want to serve as a bridge between the public and YCDC. I would like to present the public’s needs and difficulties to the municipal body,” the candidate said.

Aung Hla said that he would like to see some YCDC regulations reduced, while ensuring enforcement of existing rules that he views as necessary.

Though the concept of municipal elections is new to Rangoon residents, candidates appear to be employing tried and true campaign tactics.

“I will begin campaigning in the first week of December,” said Naw Wah Wah Htoo, a candidate from Insein Township. “I will distribute pamphlets in public places and send posters to the ward administration offices.”

The candidate said she would like to find solutions to shortcomings in YCDC’s garbage collection program and the city’s drainage system.

“Why can’t the municipal [government] solve these problems? I would like to know,” she said.

She said that with candidates elected by voters, committee members would be expected to perform in their roles as city leaders.

Out of 305 applicants who applied to run in the upcoming poll, a municipal election commission approved 291 applicants, with seven applicants withdrawing their applications and seven others rejected because they did not meet candidature requirements laid out by YCDC.

Win Cho, a former political prisoner and land rights activist who was rejected by the city election commission, said he was turned down due to a “misunderstanding.”

“The commission rejected me for providing an incomplete biography including the prison sentences [served as a political prisoner] and holding [unauthorized] demonstrations,” said Win Cho, who added that he had decided to attempt to contest the elections to provide the voice of the public.

The activist has appealed the ruling, and hopes to hear the result soon.

“Although I believe I can run in the elections, it is up to the decision of YCDC’s election commission,” he said.