Mandalay Election Criticized for Unrestricted Campaign Spending

By Myat Pyae Phyo 22 September 2016

Mandalay municipal elections have come under fire as candidates are allowed unrestricted campaign spending.

Observers have pointed out that the election for seats on the Mandalay City Development Committee will not be fair, citing the unrestricted spending.

U Maung Maung Oo, a member of a local environmental conservation organization in Mandalay who has been observing the municipal election, said, “I found that a candidate’s spending has exceeded the salary he would earn as a municipal committee member. Suppose it is a gambling, he is already losing a lot. Candidates say they just want to serve the town, which is quite doubtful.”

Candidates have ramped up campaigning—often in decorated cars bearing vinyl self-portraits that blare slogans and songs, as the municipal poll is scheduled for Sunday.

“It is disappointing that candidates are campaigning like that rather than showing the people what they can do,” criticized U Maung Maung Oo.

U Khin Maung Tun, a candidate running in Maha Aung Myay Township, has also criticized the campaign spending.

“I have seen the personal competition between some candidates who have high spending power. I am concerned it will lead to bribery and voting irregularities,” said U Khin Maung Tun.

Thirty-five candidates vie for six seats on the committee, according to the municipal election commission. The ballots will be counted overnight and the results will be announced in newspapers the following day.

U Zaw Tin Moe, secretary of the municipal election commission, told The Irrawaddy, “We are afraid that there will be more complaints about this year’s election. If disputes arise about campaign expenses, we will file a report after the election.”

According to the regulations governing municipal elections, only the head of each household will be allowed to vote.

Under the law, candidates must be at least 30, be born of parents who are both Burmese citizens, hold a bachelor’s degree and have lived in the township in which they are standing for election for at least 10 years.

The municipal election is estimated to cost 20 million kyat ($US16,000). There are 180,000 households that are eligible to vote, and there will be 232 polling stations and 2,000 polling station staff, according to the municipal election commission.

The 11-member committee will have six elected representatives—one from each township—and five unelected members, who will be mostly technocrats, including engineers, doctors and lawyers, to be appointed by the regional government. The mayor of Mandalay will act as the chairman of the Mandalay municipality.

This article was translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.