The majority of voters who will face problems with inaccuracies in the voting list are largely confined to Rangoon, an election commission official said yesterday, disputing media reports of voting irregularities throughout the country.
Win Kyi, an official with the Union Election Commission (UEC) who is overseeing Sagaing Division, also claimed that problems with the voter lists are not as widespread as the media has made them out to be.
“Apart from Yangon, there are no problems in most of the countryside. It is very easy for them to find their names,” Win Kyi said. “Also, if you see in Yangon, it is very dense in population. In one township now, there might be a million people, and it is difficult to find all the names.”
His statements come after reports over the last few months that voting lists are rife with errors.
Many overseas Burmese workers could not locate their names on the lists at embassies, while the UEC in Irrawaddy Division had to significantly overhaul its format – changing the structure of the database – in order to appease angry voters who took issue with situations such as finding the names of deceased persons on the lists or assigning people to wrong locations.
For its part, the opposition National League for Democracy party has long said that voter lists around the country are riddled with inaccuracies. Earlier this month, the party said it conducted a survey in a Mandalay township that found nearly half the names listed should not have been there.
Ascertaining the total number of people unable to participate in this year’s election is a guessing game, but estimates reach as high as 4 million if the country’s disenfranchised migrant workers are included.
According to Win Kyi, the UEC has officially registered 33.69 million voters on its lists up to 30 October. He believes this covers an acceptable number when compared against last year’s census result of roughly 36.3 million eligible voters.
“We have 33.69 million [voters] according to 30 October figure, and it is still increasing,” he said. “If we compare that to the number of voters and the total number from the census data, it is quite close. It is within a reasonable range, an acceptable range.”
He also put the onus of voter list accuracies on the people, saying that the UEC has already announced twice to the public that they must check their names and numbers.
“If they didn’t come and they didn’t apply, then we cannot help them,” he said. “We’ve announced it two times. It is their responsibility.”
Frederick Rawski, field office director at the Carter Center – a US-based NGO invited to act as election observers – said that they are not in the position to comment on the overall accuracy of the list, though they are aware of issues cropping up.
“We have looked at some specific claims that people make about flaws and follow official complaints related to those claims,” he said in an email, adding that the organisation’s aim is to identify problems in the electoral process and make recommendations. “In our last report, we noted that the UEC could do more to explain to the general public why certain problems are occurring with the lists and what they have done to address these problems.”
Objecting to the claim that other parts of the country are free from the voting list problems that Rangoon endures, Rawski added that the updated process for correcting names on the list “places an undue burden on the voters to ensure accuracy”.
He recommended an increased level of transparency and clear communication by the UEC, which could reduce the number of problems likely to occur on and around election day.
“But we will not know until after the election how serious the impact of errors will be on the overall process and result,” he said.