Objections Against Use of President’s and State Counselor’s Images in By-Election Campaign

By Kyaw Myo 25 September 2018

NAYPYITAW — The National League for Democracy (NLD) said that it would continue to use the images of President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in campaigns for the November by-election, said spokesperson of the ruling party U Myo Nyunt.

“We are sure that it is not against the law, so we will continue using [their images] boldly,” the spokesperson told the media in Naypyitaw on Sunday.

The party consulted with legal experts several times before making the decision to use their pictures in by-election campaigns. The then-ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) also used images of President U Thein Sein wearing presidential regalia during the 2015 general elections, he said.

“Because of this previous example, we have asked [candidates] to do it boldly. We are, however, taking extra caution and have instructed [candidates] not to use the picture of President U Win Myint in a golden sash, which is the symbol of the executive branch,” he said.

USDP candidate U Myo Win Kyaw of Tamwe Township, Yangon has filed a complaint with the township election commission against his NLD rival U Toe Win who used pictures of U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on his campaign trail.

“The Constitution bars the president and Union ministers from engaging in their parties’ activities so we have lodged a complaint. If they continue using their pictures, we will file a complaint after the by-election results are out on the grounds of unfairness,” the USDP spokesperson told The Irrawaddy.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) is responsible for holding a free and fair election, and the USDP will wait and see what the commission will do in response, he said.

If pictures of the president, who is ranked at the top in the government protocol, can be used, pictures of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who ranks second, can also be used, said U Myo Nyunt.

“[The USDP] is bitterly opposing it because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has substantial influence over the public. It is not because it is against the law. They are giving excuses to avoid Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s pictures being used [in the election campaign]. She won’t personally engage in [the election campaign], so don’t worry too much,” said U Myo Nyunt.

The USDP has not filed a complaint with the UEC, said commission member U Myint Naing. “Using pictures only doesn’t violate the laws,” he told The Irrawaddy.

When the USDP used a photo of former president U Thein Sein in the 2015 general election campaign, the President’s Office minister explained in Parliament that it is not against the law.

The USDP has previously said that it has no trust in the UEC, claiming that it is biased toward the NLD.

Election campaigns kicked off on Sept. 3 for the November election. Four seats in the Lower House, one seat in the Upper House, eight seats in the regional parliaments, totaling 13 seats will be up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election, according to the election commission.

The NLD will contest for all 13 vacant seats, and the USDP will contest in the constituencies outside ethnic regions.

The four seats vacant in the Lower House are Chin State’s Kanpetlet Township, Shan State’s Laihka Township, Mandalay’s Myingyan Township and Yangon’s Tamwe Township. The vacant seat in the Upper House is Kachin State Constituency 2. Vacant seats in the regional parliaments are Chin State’s Matupi Township, Sagaing’s Tamu Township, Bago’s Oktwin Township, Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, Magwe’s Minbu Township, Yangon’s Seikkan Township and the ethnic Shan constituency for Mandalay’s Regional Parliament.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.