Observers Urge Parties to Heed Code of Conduct Ahead of By-Election

By San Yamin Aung 17 October 2018

YANGON — Election observers stressed the need for political parties and candidates to stick to the Code of Conduct they have agreed to while campaigning for the Nov. 3 by-election.

During the first five weeks of the campaign period, the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) and Phan Tee Eain observed 150 campaign rallies in 12 of the constituencies with seats up for grabs. They did not monitor the campaign for Shan ethnic affairs minister in Mandalay Region.

At a press conference in Yangon on Monday, the observers said they also interviewed 43 candidates for the ruling National League for Democracy party, the main opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party, other smaller parties and independents in the 12 constituencies they traveled to.

They said they witnessed six rallies at which speakers made defamatory comments about other groups or individuals based on their race, religion or gender but offered no details about what was said or who said them.

“Six cases is not much, though it is better to have no such cases. It is important that the parties follow the Code of Conduct as the campaign period is still going on,” PACE Program Manager Ko Han Soe Tun told The Irrawaddy.

Registered political parties signed the Code of Conduct in June 2015, committing the parties and their candidates to ethical campaigning. Off-limits behavior includes making discriminatory remarks based on race or religion and slandering the competition.

The observers said that a total of four complaints have been filed with sub-national election commission offices by the NLD, USDP and individuals up to Oct. 7.

The complaints related to damaged NLD and USDP campaign materials, the NLD’s use of images of President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and a village head’s alleged insult of a candidate.

The observer groups urged the parties and candidates to follow the Code of Conduct at all times and to use the mediation committees formed in each state and region to settle disputes both before and after the election.

They also called on the Union Election Commission to do more to educate voters in order to promote a high turnout. Only 34 percent of eligible voters cast ballots during the last by-election in 2017.

The observer groups said they would continue monitoring the election campaigns, which must come to a stop on Nov. 1 at 12 p.m.