RANGOON — The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) election commission officially approved 291 candidates on Friday for the YCDC municipal elections, which will be held on Dec. 27 for the first time in more than 50 years.
Up for grabs are four seats on the Divisional Municipal Committee, 12 seats for the District Municipal Committee and 99 Township Municipal Committee seats. For decades under Burma’s former military regime, these 115 seats were appointed by the government. The nine-member Divisional Municipal Committee will still be comprised of five appointed seats, however.
A total of 305 candidates applied to run in the elections, with 41 candidates applying for the Divisional Municipal Committee, 43 candidates for the District committees and 221 candidates for the Township posts.
Only 291 of the 305 candidates qualified, however, after seven candidates withdrew their applications and seven others were rejected because they did not meet candidature requirements stipulated by the election commission, according to Tin Aye, the commission president.
Win Cho, a former political prisoner and land rights activist, was rejected by the commission for providing an incomplete biography, including omitting the jail time he has served as a prisoner of conscience. The YCDC election commission has put forward more than a dozen restrictions on who is eligible to run for office and who can vote for candidates, with one such restriction barring anyone convicted of a crime from running.
“There are some parts of his history that were not listed in his biography so his biography is incomplete and he is not eligible under the YCDC election rules and regulations,” said Tin Aye.
Win Cho told The Irrawaddy that in addition to his omission about prison time served, he was told that a failure to list his activism had been counted against his application.
“The president of the election commission said that I didn’t write things like having led famers’ issues demonstrations and having served prison sentences in the biography.”
Win Cho, who applied to run for a Divisional Municipal Committee seat, said he would appeal to the election commission but would first try to obtain the official letter stating the reason for the election body’s rejection of his application. Rejected candidates are given 30 days to appeal.
The election commission said that as of Friday, it had not received any appeals from rejected candidates.
The nominated candidates can begin campaigning from Friday, and must end campaign activities one day before the election.
Susanna Hla Hla Soe, an approved candidate for the Divisional Municipal Committee and director of the Karen Women’s Action Group (KWAG), told The Irrawaddy that she would assess the needs of constituents and vowed to improve Rangoon residents’ quality of life if elected.
“In our city, the daily problems of flooding when it rains heavily and heavy traffic jams are problems,” she said. “If I am elected, I will research the people’s needs and the budget we get and negotiate these things.”
She said she would begin campaigning next week, including organizing public seminars.
Nyi Nyi, the YCDC associate secretary, said elected candidates would be expected to work full time in their committee roles, adding that divisional committee members would be paid about 320,000 kyats (US$320) per month. District committee members’ salary is 220,000 kyats and Township-level representatives are given 180,000 kyats.
Under the voting system put forward by the YCDC election commission, only one person will be allowed to vote per household, putting the voter roll at about 800,000 people. Still, that marks a dramatic increase from an initial proposal that would only have allowed about 30,000 people to vote.