Election Commission backtracks on new campaign rules

Election Commission backtracks on new campaign rules

Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has agreed to seven of nine electoral regulation changes recommended by the country’s main opposition party, according to politicians present at the negotiations.

Win Myint, central committee member of the National League for Democracy, told DVB that his party met with the UEC on 1 August to propose changes to election and campaign protocol before polls scheduled for next year.

The NLD recommended nine changes, seven of which were accepted by the UEC. Among the points accepted was the allowance of a two-month campaign period in the lead-up to elections, as opposed to a one-month period currently stipulated.

“They [the UEC] agreed to seven points. One point that they did not agree to was changing the hours for pre-voting, so that the window would end at 6am instead of 4am,” said Win Myint. The UEC, he said, explained that they do not have the authority to make that adjustment.

The other rejected proposal was a requirement that all UEC members abstain from any affiliation with a political party for 3-5 years before becoming a member. Burma’s Constitution currently stipulates that members cannot have a party affiliation, but does not specify a time-frame. The commission said that they have no power to add the requirement as it pertains to the Constitution, not electoral law.

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Regarding the accepted proposals, the UEC committed to releasing orders to implement the changes, Win Myint said.

The NLD’s recommendations were submitted to the commission on 21 July, after electoral guidelines were controversially redrafted by the UEC in May. The new rules and regulations, which contained 44 amendments, were released on 28 July.

The UEC, a government-appointed oversight body established in 2010 and chaired by former Lt-Gen Tin Aye, has come under fire for tightening control on election regulations in advance of highly anticipated general elections set for late 2015. Another round of by-elections are expected by the end of 2014, in which 31 seats across Burma will be contested.

The upcoming elections are seen as a litmus test for Burma’s reforms. A 2010 general election — the country’s first in decades — was almost universally dismissed as fraudulent, though by-elections held in April 2012 landed 43 opposition party members in the newly-formed parliament, lending some credibility to the new government.

Among those opposition members was Aung San Suu Kyi, who was formerly under house arrest. While the 2012 by-election placed her in parliament, the government has faced immense criticism for a Constitutional clause that prohibits her from seeking the presidency in 2015.

 

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