Voter Lists on Agenda as NLD, Election Body Set to Meet Again

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 29 June 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s main opposition party will again meet with the country’s election body in an effort ahead of the general election to improve voter verification, a process that has come in for criticism in recent weeks amid widespread complaints that preliminary lists of eligible voters are highly inaccurate.

Tun Tun Hein, leader of a voter list review committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD), said the party’s second meeting on the issue with the Union Election Commission (UEC) was scheduled to take place early next month in Naypyidaw.

He said the two sides would discuss ways to improve the voter verification system currently in place, including easing election bylaw restrictions that the NLD says are making the process for filing corrections onerous for voters. Election bylaws currently require that the affected voter submit corrections of their personal data to local election officials in person.

“Based on our door-to-door visits with voters, they said they had no time to do it as they are busy with their work,” Tun Tun Hein said.

“The UEC may not think it is such a difficulty, but it’s the reality on the ground,” he added.

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 that have been rolled out across the country in four stages beginning in March. 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.

Party leaders had a meeting with the UEC on June 3 after sending an open letter to the commission in which the party claimed preliminary voter lists were 30 percent to 80 percent inaccurate. At a press conference five days later, UEC chairman Tin Aye acknowledged “many errors” on the initial lists, but assured the public that the necessary measures were in place for voters to correct the data ahead of Election Day.

“After the meeting, we no longer face any hindrances in copying the voter lists. This time we hope that we will overcome the difficulty we are facing,” Tun Tun Hein said.

To inject momentum into the process of voter list verification, NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi joined the party’s door-to-door drive over the weekend in Naypyidaw.

During a three-hour canvassing of Pobbathiri Township on Saturday, Suu Kyi and her team visited 18 houses and met with 24 families to check for voter list errors, according to Win Myint, a fellow NLD lawmaker who accompanied the chairwoman.

“Her visit showed how seriously she takes compiling a correct voter list. Many people were thrilled when she explained to them how to make proper corrections when errors were found in their list,” he said.

Nationwide, reports of errors have included cases involving omissions, incorrect dates of birth and the inclusion of deceased individuals.

The fourth and final batch of preliminary voter lists were made public last week across several of Burma’s states and divisions. They were originally due to be displayed until July 5, but UEC director Thein Oo told The Irrawaddy that the rosters would instead be left up indefinitely.

Additionally, Thein Oo said preliminary voter lists comprising the first three phases of the rollout would be republished across the country for an indeterminate period of time, in an apparent response to the criticism directed at the UEC in recent weeks.

Voters will have another chance to check the lists sometime after the polling date is made known, an announcement that is expected no less than 90 days before Election Day.