Civil servants, police and elderly locals in Prome were among the first citizens within Burma to cast their votes in the historic general election as pre-voting opened across the country on Thursday.
At a ward office in the Pegu Division town, residents unable to vote in person at their local polling station next Sunday were given an early opportunity to exercise that right today. The advance voting process will continue for a week until next Friday, 6 November, two days before the rest of the country queues to select their leaders.
The balloting also acts as a pre-run for polling station officials and the election commission to iron out any kinks in the process ahead of the big day.
“My tip to other citizens heading to polling stations on election day is to consider who they will vote for beforehand,” said Than Htike, a railways police officer. “It took me about five minutes just to cast three votes, but maybe [it took so long] because this is just the beginning of the election.
“The polling station was not at all crowded today and we didn’t have to wait long, but still it took each voter about five minutes to decide who to vote for,” he added.
Officials at this polling station in Prome expressed concern that they would not be able to move voters through at a fast enough pace.
“People such as these voters – civil servants, health department officials, police, railway police and others – were provided voter training by their supervisors,” said Myo Oo, a polling station supervisor. “So, if even these people don’t know how to vote quickly and efficiently then how will it be with regular voters?”
There are 40,000 polling stations across Burma and a registered 31 million potential voters. That means, on average, each polling station should expect an average of at least 500 voters on 8 November.
In Rangoon, European Union election observers also had a chance to practice for polling day.
“We are here to deliver an assessment of the entire electoral process, not just related to election day,” said Eberhard Laue, the head of the EU observation mission. “So, we are looking at the run-up to the elections – the campaign period. We are looking at the election day; we are also looking at the weeks after the elections, and all of that information together will allow us to give an informed analysis of the process.”