By Khin Min Zaw
Cries of foul play have been sounded as canvassing for Burma’s by-election reaches the country’s south, where names of dead people have reportedly appeared on voter lists in one village.
Residents of Ma-Ubin in Irrawaddy division say an array of irregularities have occurred there, with lists also displaying incorrect spellings and wrong ID card numbers.
Locals who moved away from the village well before campaigning got underway have also been featured, as have mentally disabled people normally barred from casting votes.
A member of the National League for Democracy living in Ma-Ubin said that the government-backed Union Election Commission had urged citizens to report irregularities. “We will now go to the wards and check if the voters’ lists are displayed in the right way,” he said.
An official from the UEC responded to allegations by saying that, “Those whose names and ID card numbers are omitted from the list or described wrongly on the list should come and inform us in person.”
Residents of Rangoon division’s Mingalartaungnyunt township have raised similar suspicions of fraudulent voter lists.
The UEC announced yesterday the list of people eligible to cast advance votes prior to the 1 April polling day, among whom are soldiers, students and trainees living outside the country. Elderly Burmese citizens and those in poor are also eligible, as are prisoners.
The issue of advance votes attracted heated debate in the 2010 – while the government is legally allowed to order advance votes from who are unable to reach polling booths on the day, reports of widespread coercion of nationals prior to the vote emerged.
Thein Nyunt, of New National Democratic Party, said election fraud would be less of a problem were the government to allow outside monitors to witness vote counting, including advance votes that “should be counted first”.
The UEC has urged free and fair by-elections following international criticism of the way the 2010 polls were conducted.