PM’s party ‘rounds up villagers for vote’

The party headed by the Burmese prime minister and widely tipped to win the 7 November polls has been accused by locals in southern Burma of collecting votes in advance.

Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by Thein Sein, have been busily campaigning across the country, with only weeks to go until the elections, Burma’s first in 20 years.

But residents of Yaydwinaung village in Tenasserim division say that during campaigning the USDP had rounded up villagers into one house and collected details of each.

“[The USDP campaigners] said it is raining this time of year so the villagers should give them advance votes in case they can’t show up [at the ballot stations during the election time],” said one Yaydwinaung villager. “They filled in forms on the villagers’ behalf and collected their ID card number.”

The USDP’s main rival in Khamaukkyi township, where Yaydwinaung is located, is the National Unity Party (NUP), who came second in the 1990 elections and are also closely affiliated to the ruling junta. The NUP is fielding around 980, while the USDP has more than 1000.

“According to the election laws and regulations, in Aungchanthar village [close to Yaydwinaung] there is a ballot station – station number 79 – and about 300 voters so there is no reason to collect votes in advance there. The law doesn’t approve it, and if it is true, we will file a lawsuit,” said NUP candidate Hla Shwe.

Tensions are already high between the two main contenders for the vote – the NUP has already filed a lawsuit against the USDP alleging foul play in the build up to the polls.

Similar allegations of advanced voting have been levelled at USDP members in Rangoon division. Soe Kyi, from the opposition Democratic Party, told DVB that nearly 40 USDP campaigners were handing out ballot papers with the party’s name on despite no authorisation by the government to do this.

“The USDP campaigners are telling people to tick the vote mark next to their party’s logo on the ballots,” he said. “They also included the logo and the name of our party. They cannot do that without our permission.”

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