9 November 2015
A selection of articles from DVB’s archives on the 2015 Burmese election.
Muslims in Burma suffer brunt of candidate rejections
2 September 2015
A total of 88 candidates from across Burma, including almost an entire Muslim political party, have been disqualified from the 8 November general election. Of the 88, most were rejected by the Union or regional election commissions for not meeting certain personal criteria. The highest number of revoked candidacy applications was in Arakan State – some 28 – all of whom were from the minority Rohingya Muslim community. Invariably, those rebuffed did not meet the election commission’s citizenship criteria.
“They [Rohingya candidates] failed to meet the qualifications under Electoral Law Article 10(e) – that a candidate must be a Burmese citizen, who is also born to parents who are both Burmese citizens. The rejected candidates did not meet this criteria,” said Aung Kyaw Nyunt, the chairman of Maungdaw District’s election commission.
In fact, 17 of 18 candidates were disqualified from one party alone: the Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), based in Rangoon and Maungdaw, which has a high Muslim membership and Rohingya rights agenda. “We [DHRP] received a letter from Maungdaw District Election Commission saying our candidates were rejected after their applications were scrutinised and found not to be in conformity with the laws and bylaws,” said party chairman Kyaw Min. “I wonder if the government is prioritising a policy over the law,” he added.
Also among the Rohingya aspirants rejected was incumbent Lower House MP Shwe Maung, a former Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) member, who was seeking to run in the polls this time as an independent candidate for Buthidaung Township. He told DVB that his appeal against the district election commission’s rejection was dismissed by the state-level election commission on 1 September.
“[Fellow Rohingya candidate] Daw Khin Khin Lwin and I presented our appeals on 27 August and were appointed a hearing on 1 September,” he said. “At 10 am, I went to the hearing and presented all my evidence, but the decision must have already been decided, because in less than 10 seconds, [the official] said: ‘U Shwe Maung’s appeal has been dismissed, as has Daw Khin Lwin Lwin’s’.”
“From what I could see, the Arakan Election Commission did not give me a proper hearing and had already made a decision [to reject me],” he continued. “This makes me suspect that the Maungdaw district and Arakan state election commissions are being put under pressure by some group or a person.”
The northern Arakan town of Maungdaw, like nearby Buthidaung, is majority Rohingya Muslim, or ‘Bengali’ as many Burmese refer to the community by, a largely pejorative term suggesting they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Tensions between Arakanese Buddhists and the Rohingya community have boiled over several times in the past, most notably in 2012, when communal violence left over a hundred dead and some 140,000 homeless after mobs sowed destruction among each other’s neighbourhoods.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has reportedly said that seven of its 1138 proposed candidates have been disqualified for a variety of reasons, including ethnicity, age, and association with illegal organisations. An NLD spokesman suggested the party would appeal those cases. The ruling USDP has so far made no announcement about any rejections among its submitted list of 1139 candidates.
UEC Chairman Tin Aye said the rejected candidates have one week starting from 3 September to appeal the decision with their local election commission. If rejected, they may still reach out but not appeal to the regional [state or division] election commission whose decision will be final.
Deep pockets boost ruling party’s chances in the 2015 Burma elections
28 October 2015
The ruling Union Solidarity and Democracy Party (USDP) has massively outstripped opposition parties when it comes to money spent on luring voters, according to a leading Burma-based election watchdog. The People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) has run the rule over the conduct of major parties during the campaign period, which has continued over the past six weeks in the lead-up to the country’s 8 November general election.
At a press conference on 27 October at the Park Royal Hotel in Rangoon, PACE executive director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said the results of the survey were based on findings in more than 2,600 interviews with election candidates in 129 townships across Burma, and the monitoring of more than 1,600 campaign rallies.
He noted that the results were preliminary findings and did not provide details of the amounts or estimated amounts of spending involved. “In terms of [incentives] – not only cash, but also material such as clothing, food and small gifts – we would like to highlight that the USDP has distributed these more than other parties,” said PACE executive director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint.
Many USDP candidates have campaigned across the country on a platform of local investment and development, with several dipping into their personal funds to woo voters. Khin Shwe, a USDP candidate for the Upper House seat of Constituency-9, told crowds in September to consider the individual contributions made by party members. Constituency-9 includes Tontay, Kungyangon and Kawhmu townships. This year, the seat has been expanded to include Seikgyi-Kanaungto, Dala and Coco Island townships.
“As for the [USDP], we not only raise development issues in the parliament but are also providing help to locals at our own financial expense so rural areas such as yours should consider the individual that is running,” he told locals in the rural southern Rangoon area of Kawhmu last month.
“If you are considering your vote based on which party a candidate belongs to, then consider which individual will see to your needs,” he told constituents. Khin Shwe has amassed a vast personal fortune through ownership of construction and telecommunications conglomerate Zaykabar.
PACE has not yet published the full results of their survey, but released a press statement on 27 October which also the highlights the role of race and religion in the campaign period, as well as inflammatory remarks made at campaign rallies. However, the watchdog made a positive overall judgement of Burma’s election campaign period so far, stating that:
“Of rallies observed, 93 percent of candidates made no personal or inciting comments about another candidate. At 98 percent of rallies observed, no speaker made any comment about a group or person. However, at 2 percent of rallies observed, inciting remarks were made about race, religion and/or gender.”
However, PACE will take no further action in regards to their findings, but says it will present its information on the use of voter incentives and reference to race and religion in political campaigns, to the Union Election Commission and individual parties. PACE’s Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint made an added observation in reference to the star power of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who has completely dominated her National League for Democracy party’s campaign thus far.
“We also monitored who else from political parties was involved in the campaigns other than the candidates, and found that while every other party has their candidates campaigning, the National League for Democracy has lesser number of campaigns where the candidates are themselves the focus,” he noted.
~ To read more on Burma please visit the Democratic Voice of Burma’s website.