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Controversy over parliament vote change

Parliament is set to drop its use of a computerized system that had kept an air of anonymity surrounding voting for parliamentary proposals, in favour of an open head-count.


The purported reason given by People’s Parliament speaker Shwe Mann for the change centered on concerns from some ministers that the computerised system was vulnerable to manipulation.


But opposition politicians have criticized the move, claiming that knowledge of who voted for certain measures could push MPs into vetoing proposals on the basis of which party made them, and not the substance of the proposals themselves.


“Some representatives said vote results could be manipulated from the computer control room and maybe the Speaker heard them saying it,” according to Pe Than, an MP in the People’s Parliament and member of the Rakhine National Development Party. “He [Shwe Mann] announced that parliament will abandon the computerised system and instead to use an open head-count for voting.


“We pro-democratic representatives prefer the anonymous system, however – currently no one from [the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party] would dare to support our proposals in the open vote system.”


He added that Shwe Mann, who had been the former Burmese junta’s third-ranking official, also assured the representatives that no one would be punished for the decision they made under the open system, and are “free to stand up either in favour or against a proposal as they feel”.


The first open head-count came last week after officials said there had been a malfunction with the computerized system over voting for a proposal to abolish the 1926 Contempt of Court Act.


The proposal, submitted by former National Democratic Force leader Thein Nyunt, who has set up a new party, was reportedly rejected via the head count by 359 MPs, against three in favour.


The subsequent results of the computerized count however showed a narrower margin, but that was reportedly dismissed as illegitimate given the alleged malfunction.


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