ELECTION 2015: EC pledges transparency in advance voting

ELECTION 2015: EC pledges transparency in advance voting

The chairman of the Rangoon Division Election Commission said that measures have been drawn up to ensure transparency during advance voting at the upcoming general election slated for November.

“We have made arrangements to ensure transparency during the period of advance voting,” Ko Ko told DVB on Tuesday. “In fact, there was no controversy surrounding advance voting in the 2012 by-elections, but this year we are preparing further measures.”

However, opposition National League for Democracy spokesperson Nyan Win said his party harbours concerns over the potential for rigging advance votes.

“We are indeed concerned about the advance voting – there were many reports of tampering with advance votes in the previously elections and almost no action was seen being taken regarding those cases. So we are worried,” he said, adding that the NLD would like to suggest strict procedures to be followed.

Advance voting, also known as early voting or pre-poll voting, allows constituents to cast ballots ahead of polling day, either by mail or in person at a designated centre such as an embassy. The system is encouraged as a means to maximise voter turnout and allows those who cannot manage to attend a polling station on election day the chance to vote. Migrant workers, servicemen and women serving away from home, persons with religious obligations, and election workers are among those generally included in advance polling.

The Burmese government announced last month that it would allow US and European observers at the upcoming election. On 19 March, the Union Election Commission issued a code of conduct for international observers, calling for all foreign observers to remain impartial and respect Burma’s electoral rules.

Burmese state media reported that the European Union and the US-based Carter Center would be invited to send observers to monitor the election process.

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The Carter Center on Monday released a report outlining its recommendations to ensure transparency in the upcoming Burmese general election, including a call that its observers be permitted to monitor advance voting in military and police barracks.

The Carter Center also urged Burma’s authorities to ensure that civil society organisations and reporters are allowed free access to do their jobs without facing harassment, restriction or retaliation; and to protect the voting rights of temporary ID holders.

However, the documents carried by temporary ID holders, commonly known as “white cards”, expired on 31 March and those in question, the majority of whom are Rohingya Muslims, find themselves stateless as from 1 April. Unless a presidential order to strip white cardholders is overturned, up to 850,000 “stateless” residents of the country will be barred from voting.

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