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A petition campaign has been launched to pressure the government into reforming the Union Election Commission (UEC), a body which activist group the Mass Movement Acceleration Network (MMAN) says is illegitimate.
The campaign kicked off on Saturday in Tamwe Township, just days after President Thein Sein added eight more members to the UEC. MMAN say that the commission is biased, as it is currently made up of former members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Coordinator of the MMAN Soe Kyaw Thu said: “The Union Election Commission was formed prior to the amending of the Union Election Commission Law in March 2012.”
“The commission should be reformed in accordance with the new law. Without doing this, it still conforms to the old law and therefore is illegitimate,” he said.
High court attorney Thein Than Oo at the petition launch on Saturday said the upcoming elections will not be fair without UEC reform.
“According to UEC law, members of the commission cannot be a member of parliament, or a political party. But the lieutenant general Tin Aye was elected as a USDP MP for Tada-U Township, and then resigned from his post on 16 February 2011, just to take position as the UEC chairman the following day.
“This is essentially cheating the law. Ideally, the UEC chairman should have no political ties whatsoever. Moreover, he has no experience in the judicial sector – he was appointed UEC chairman only on the basis that the president found him trust worthy,” said Thein Than Oo.
“Also, all of the local election commission members in Burma’s 14 administrative regions, 66 districts and 350 townships are former military officers and USDP members, so there is already a clear answer on whether the upcoming elections will be fair or not.”
Ko Ko, chairman of the Rangoon Division election commission, told DVB that the activists’ argument was invalid.
“It doesn’t sound very rational to me to say the election commission members nominated by the president and approved by the union parliament are illegitimate. I, for one, deem myself to be legitimate. I am a retired military official – there are many individuals like me in other countries as well. Are we not allowed to take part in the political scene just because we are retired officials?” said Ko Ko.
“According to the constitution, one has to give up their position in a political party. From the legal aspect, the UEC members have resigned from their party and their military positions. I believe that these [activists’] arguments are inappropriate.”
The MMAN said it will send signatures collected in the petition to the president and the union parliament.
President Thein Sein on 3 April announced the appointment of eight more members to the UEC. The names of those added were revealed to be Zau Naw; Kham Win; Ba Hlaing; Har Kee; Maung Maung Kyi; Nong Taung; Tun Thein and San Win.
The elections are expected to be held in November.