Report by MMDP Office, Yangoon
As the electoral process gathers momentum, it is essential that political parties prepare to take part in it based on coherent and up-to-date information. It is also important for the Union Election Commission (UEC) to respond promptly and effectively to concerns raised by political parties to ensure that the process retains the trust of the parties. To support the electoral process, the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD), through its Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP) convened a technical advisory session and dialogue on the voter list update process. This process is one of the first steps in establishing the basis for free, fair and credible elections in 2015.
The voter list display
Participants at the meeting included representatives of political parties and alliances, including the United Nationalities Alliance, Union Solidarity and Development Party, National Unity Party, National League for Democracy, the Federal Democratic Alliance, and resource persons with expertise on elections. Thiha Thet Saw of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) — Myanmar provided details of when and where the voter list update would take place, and also gave details on how voters can request any adjustments to the list, in case there are voters that are missing, incorrectly included, or have errors in their registration details. Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, Director of the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) emphasized the importance of parties encouraging their supporters to check the voter list display. According to PACE’s voter list registration pilot project, only 50% of the citizens knew that they have to check their name on the voter list display, and details on the list are frequently inaccurate. Jeremy Liebowitz, the Political Party and Dialogue Advisor for the MMDP, outlined why it is important for parties to carefully observe the voter list update process and raise any concerns to the UEC, and also to inform their members about the importance of checking the display and making any necessary corrections.
photo: U Hla Thaung of NUP (member of central youth committee), discussing and raising question to IFES presentation.
In response to the presentations made, participating party representatives raised a number of cogent issues regarding the voter list update process. Many participants expressed concern that those who had moved for work or other reasons would be not captured by the voter list update process as they lacked the requisite paperwork (Form 66) for their current home. Other participants expressed concerns about many citizens lacking National Registration Cards to identify themselves as voters; a large group of unofficial migrants to nearby countries who might lose their franchise due to inability to return to Myanmar; and the challenges citizens in conflict-affected areas or Internally Displaced Persons camps might face to be included on the voter list. Representatives of IFES and PACE discussed in what ways the UEC can capture these groups whose right to vote is at risk, and strategies for parties to minimize the number of supporters that are excluded from the voter list.
photo: U Tun Aung Kyi of USDP (secretary of Pazun Taung Township Party branch), raising a question to Ko Thiha of IFES after his presentation.
Consensus on further dialogue
At the conclusion of the dialogue, parties developed consensus on a set of issues for further dialogue and to be addressed by the UEC in upcoming meetings. These included clear guidance on how voters who have moved or are in conflict areas will be captured on the voter list, what kind of identification will be required for voting, and how the advance voting process will work. After the session, one of the participants stated that “[multiparty, multi-stakeholder] dialogue is very helpful to the process of holding free and fair elections. Dialogues are a democratic practice and can help us find solutions to the electoral issues.”
Contact Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Advisor at DIPD
email@example.com or (+45) 38 40 28 02
Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Local Programme Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org or (+95) 9 519 4929