By Shwe Aung
The National League for Democracy (NLD) and independent by-election monitors are crying foul as early votes are cast in Burma’s by-elections.
Polls opened for early voting on 31 and 30 March. Earlier this month, the Union Election Commission (UEC) announced the list of people eligible to cast early votes, which included election officials, civil servants, elderly citizens, residents with poor health and prisoners.
NLD’s candidate Win Myint from Irrawaddy division’s capital Bassein said his party’s monitors visited a polling station but were told to leave by election officials.
“Early voting has begun and it was fair and square in some wards,” said Win Myint “But we are still seeing the same old behaviour in other wards.”
According to the candidate, the party’s monitors dealt with intimidation.
“The officials said ‘There’s nothing for you to see – you don’t need to know anything.’ The [monitors] came back and informed me so I reported this to the Election Commission,” said Win Myint.
Meanwhile, independent election monitors in another Irrawaddy town, Pyarpon, said envelopes containing ballots that were cast yesterday were supposed to be sealed but had been opened.
Ba Thet Aung of 88 Generation Students’ Election Monitor Network in Pyarpon said: “We went to the [ballot stations] in 10, 8, 14, and 9 wards and saw envelops [containing] votes were opened from the side and informed the [ward election] commissions. Some of them – such as the ward 9’s commission chairman – agreed to fix them but some others refused.”
He said the monitors also found that early voting tickets at the station in ward 14 were missing official stamps and signatures. Ba Thet Aung also claimed that party representatives at the ballot station in Koeintan village report being ordered to leave by the village’s election chairman.
The NLD’s candidate Khin San Hlaing in Sagaing Division’s Pale township made similar claims.
“The Election Commission chairman was collecting advance votes by himself door to door,” said Khin San Hlaing. “The law [states that] the commission is only to go and collect the advance vote when someone applied for it, but [they] are just collecting those door by door and this is completely against the law.”
The candidate filed an official complaint, but the town’s Election Commission did not take any action.
There was widespread allegation in the 2010 election that the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party tampered with early ballots that allowed for the group to earn a landslide victory.