President-Elect Proposes New UEC Leadership

By San Yamin Aung 25 March 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s President-elect Htin Kyaw has nominated the chairman and members of the Union Election Commission (UEC), choosing five men to oversee the country’s 2020 general election and expected by-elections to fill vacant legislative seats ahead of that.

Union Parliament Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than presented the proposed list of new UEC members to lawmakers during a joint parliamentary session on Friday, naming a former election subcommissioner to head the Naypyidaw-based polling body.

Five members—Hla Thein, Aung Myint, Soe Reh, Tun Khin and Hla Tint—were nominated, with Hla Thein proposed as chairman. Most nominees are lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office, and no members of the current, 15-member UEC are on the list.

A member of the outgoing UEC told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the proposed new chairman was head of the election subcommission for Meikhtila District in Mandalay Division. Meikhtila Township is one place where the National League for Democracy (NLD) saw defeat to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in a general election last year that the party of Aung San Suu Kyi otherwise dominated.

According to a biography distributed to parliamentarians, Hla Thein, 67, is a retired professor who formerly taught at Meikhtila University. He worked in the geology department at Mandalay and Magwe universities and as a rector at three colleges.

The powerful UEC holds broad authority to arrange, postpone or cancel elections, monitor and decide the fate of political parties and candidates, and judge election-related disputes, among other related responsibilities.

The current UEC is chaired by ex-general Tin Aye, who was also a USDP lawmaker before taking up the post in 2011. The commission he led was comprised of 15 members, including eight ethnic minority members who were added in 2015.
Tin Aye, who was largely praised for his handling of the Nov. 8 election and its aftermath, had previously indicated that he would not be interested in a second term as UEC chairman.

Parliament will vote on Htin Kyaw’s proposal on Monday, with high likelihood of approval given the strong majorities that his party, the NLD, holds in both chambers.

It was not immediately clear whether the five-member UEC proposed would mean a permanent downsizing of the commission, perhaps as part of the NLD’s pursuit of “lean,” more efficient government.