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|(Photo Courtesy: reviewallblogs.com)|
An election commission official said yesterday that public scrutiny was essential to preventing irregularities in the voter rolls ahead of by-elections scheduled for April 1, and that election officials have already made substantial corrections to voter lists.
U Myo Chit, chairman of the district level election commission in Mandalay and a retired lawyer, said about 100,000 names have already been “corrected” in Maharaungmyae township alone.
The chairman said some residents had listed names of people working outside Mandalay who would not be present for the vote, and others have yet to remove deceased relatives from their family registration lists.
“If all people work with great interest in the election, these kinds of irregularities might not occur,” said U Myo Chit, adding that people should visit their local immigration office and update their family registration cards.
Despite efforts to prepare well for the by-elections, mistakes have been made by people who have shown poor organization skills, he said.
U Myo Chit said the stakes were high for the April elections, as the eyes of the international community would be watching closely the latest step in the country’s long march towards democratic reform.
He noted that the government’s agreement to allow election monitors from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the US and the EU testified to the government’s sincerity and willingness to be more transparent.
Myanmar last month extended invitations to send observers to Yangon on March 28.
US state department spokesperson Virginia Nuland said Myanmar had invited two state department officials and three US journalists, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
“It’s a good move to have ASEAN members come and monitor the election. The more they check, the more they can see and can build trust, which leads to a free and fair election,” U Myo Chit said.
Irregularities in the voter rolls have been reported in almost all constituencies. The National League for Democracy said in a statement released last week that even in Kawhmu, the constituency for which Aung San Suu Kyi will contest the election, some 413 dead people need to be removed from voter lists, while another 1,387 voters need to be added.
Bauk Ja, an ethnic Kachin and a National Democratic Force candidate from Hpakant constituency, said the closure of polling stations over security concerns also poses a challenge to a free and fair election.
She said 39 polling stations have so far been closed in Hpakant.
“The security excuse does not make sense. The fighting is not happening in Hpakant, though the military is based there,” said Bauk Ja.
She added that the closure of polling stations could impact as many as 30,000 voters, who would not be able to travel to alternative facilities and thereby would lose their votes.
“If you are trying to build trust with the people, this is not an appropriate way to proceed,” Bauk Ja said, adding that she had submitted a letter of complaint to the Union Election Commission but has so far had no response.
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