Low Turnout, Voter Roll Trouble Mar Yangon Municipal Election

By Thazin Hlaing 1 April 2019

YANGON — Yangon residents showed little interest in Sunday’s municipal election, according to the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), an independent, non-government election monitor.

The group sent out 348 observers to the 33 townships across Yangon Region taking part in the poll.

Fewer than 10 percent of the more than 3 million eligible voters cast ballots across the townships between 6 and 10:30 in the morning, PACE Executive Director U Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint told The Irrawaddy.

There were more than 1,800 eligible voters in Latha Township’s Ward 6, but only a little more than 200 of them had cast ballots by noon, said ward administrator U Aung Moe Kyaw.

“The turnout was quite disappointing. Some could not cast a vote because of some weaknesses in compiling the voter list,” he said.

Political analyst U Yan Myo Thein said the low turnout reflected the public’s declining satisfaction with the municipal government’s performance.

“Perhaps people do not cast votes because they think nothing will change even if they vote,” he told The Irrawaddy.

He said the Yangon Municipal Election Commission also failed to raise public awareness of the poll or to educate many voters in advance.

U Khin Hlaing, one of the candidates, said the commission did not do enough to inform the public about the new Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) Law.

“People don’t know all the provisions in the municipal law, so they don’t know how important it is. And the poll was held soon after the municipal election by-law was adopted. People were not adequately informed about it,” U Khin Hlaing said, meaning some people who would have made strong candidates never even registered to run.

PACE said hundreds of eligible voters could not cast ballots because they were not included on the voter rolls.

In Sanchaung Township’s Lin Lun Myauk Ward alone, more than 100 voters were disenfranchised because they were not on the voter list, said Lower House lawmaker U Bo Bo Oo, who represents Sanchaung.

“Voters complained to me that they could not cast votes because they were not on the voter list. Some of them have lived [in Sanchaung] for some three decades. The situation was the worst in Lin Lun Myauk,” he told The Irrawaddy.

A total 105 seats are up for grabs — three in each of the city’s 33 townships and six for the executive board of the YCDC, one of whom will be elected vice-mayor. A total of 272 candidates contested the election.

The official results will be released on Monday.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.