The Union Election Commission (UEC) met with more than 60 political parties in Rangoon on Thursday to discuss the commission’s recently announced electoral regulations.
The “electoral stakeholder relations” meeting was organised by the Myanmar [Burma] Multiparty Democracy Programme, an initiative sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy.
Last week, UEC edicts sharply curbed the length of campaign periods for elections in Burma. As a result of the changes, parties will be limited to a campaign time of 30 days prior to elections, reduced from the previous three month timeframe. Representative campaigning was also restricted by the UEC, meaning that party representatives will not be able to campaign on behalf of election candidates without the approval of respective District Election Commissions.
Futhermore, the UEC will require campaigning parties to provide advanced event schedules as well as times and routes for campaign rallies.
On the eve of the meeting, the Federal Democratic Alliance (FDA) held a press conference, where representatives called for the UEC to soften the regulations. The FDA is made up of 10 political parties including the Karen People’s Party, Chin Progressive Party, Democratic Party-Myanmar, Democracy and Peace Party, Union Democracy Party, Peace and Diversity Party, New Democratic Society of Myanmar and National Democratic Force (NDF).
The FDA maintains that a 60- day campaign period would be more reasonable.
Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force, urged the UEC to reconsider the regulations. He believes the requirement for non-candidate party representatives to seek permission in order to campaign should be scrapped.
“At [Thursday’s] meeting we urged the UEC to reconsider the provision that requires approval from the commission in order to stage an election campaign – we suggested that requirement should be only to ‘inform’ instead of seeking approval,” said Khin Maung Swe.
Htay Oo, vice-chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party insisted that the new regulations are reasonable and that parties must ensure they are strictly followed.
“It is a standard regulation to inform the electoral body as to the details of rallies, speeches and election posters. This situation has not changed. We discussed in the meeting how we can best proceed to hold elections in conformity with new regulations based on experiences in previous polls,” Htay Oo said.
At Thursdays meeting, UEC chairman Tin Aye told party representatives that the new regulations were based on international electoral protocols and have simply been modified to suit Burmese institutions.
“The new directives on election campaigning; regulations for parliament candidates and political parties are a ‘Burmanisation’ of electoral provisions from other countries that we studied,” said Tin Aye.
Burma is set to hold another round of by-elections this year, when 31 seats across Burma will be contested. 19 seats are required to be filled across both houses of the 664- seat Union Parliament as well as 12 seats in various divisional administrations. The by-elections are scheduled to be held late this year.