Losers Question Legitimacy of Early Votes in Kachin Military Bases

By Nyein Nyein 5 November 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Politicians in Kachin State have raised questions about the early voting inside military bases ahead of Saturday’s by-election for an Upper House seat, which went to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Six candidates contested the seat for constituency No. 2. Three of them — including the candidates for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Kachin Democratic Party (KDP) — did not sign Form 19 endorsing the declared winner, claiming the vote was not transparent.

Many local residents have also raised doubts about the results and questioned the transparency of the early voting, as the monitoring of polling stations inside military bases is heavily restricted.

Of the more than 3,000 early votes cast inside military bases for the race, the vast majority went to the USDP.

A Kachin State Electoral Commission officer, however, told local media that any doubts about the poll were unfounded.

USDP spokesman U Thein Tun Oo also rejected suggestions of vote tampering and said his party would have won even without the early votes.

“Such criticism is funny … and I would say that they are the type to find fault with others,” he said.

The USDP candidate, U Hsi Hu Dwe, officially received 23,186 votes and was declared the winner by the Union Election Commission (UEC) on Sunday. The KDP candidate received 19,112 votes, and the NLD candidate received 18,999.

KDC candidate Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, the party’s chairman, said he would be filing a complaint with the UEC objecting to the fact that military personnel have the right to vote in general and by-elections while the military also gets to appoint 25 percent of the country’s lawmakers as per the military-drafted Constitution.

“The electoral system needs to change and it won’t be fair so long as military personnel have voting privileges and also the right to sit in parliament,” he said.

Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said he would gather evidence of wrongdoing before lodging his complaint.

“It is not because we lost the race; it is because we want to highlight that the election must be fair for all candidates,” he said.

Candidate who lost an election can file complaints with the UEC up to 45 days after result are announced.

Kachin State has more than 230,000 eligible voters, but less than a third of them — about 69,000 — cast ballots on Saturday.

The NLD candidate, Daw Yam Hkawn Hpauyam, told The Irrawaddy that she would not file a compliant because she finished third, but added that the early voting inside military bases “needs to be reviewed.”

U Kyaw Kyaw Oo, an Upper House lawmaker representing Kachin State, told The Irrawaddy that the public and the candidates should have raised their concerns well before election day, while the voter lists were still being verified.

“We did not object then, and now it has all been confirmed by the UEC,” he said.

Additional reporting by The Irrawaddy’s San Yamin Aung in Yangon.