The chairman of the Yangon Region election commission talked to a Burma Election 2012 reporter about “ weaknesses” in the collection of voter lists, a major subject of complaint in the run up to April 1 parliamentary by-elections in Burma.
“The voter list is a hot issue in the election,” Ko Ko said from Yangon. “I admit that we had to update voter lists many times.”
The April 1 by-election is being held to fill 48 parliamentary seats vacated by lawmakers who were appointed to the cabinet and other posts. Burma’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the main opposition National League for Democracy, is contesting a seat in a Yangon constituency.
According to the election law, ward-level election commissions have to make voter lists and submit the lists to the national election commission through township and regional election commissions.
Ko Ko said the reason there are mistakes in voter lists is due to the weakness of ward election commissions and voters themselves.
For example, a common complaint by the NLD and other opposition parties is that electoral roles often contain the names of many dead people. Ko Ko explained that ward election commissions appoint clerks to keep death records and square those with voter lists. That does not always happen.
“They should have all of those lists in hand (but don’t),” he said. “Because of their failure, we are in chaos.”
Voters also fail to alert election commissions when they are eligible to vote but their names are missing from electoral roles, Ko Ko said.
Voter lists were announced February 29 at ward election commission offices. Voters could check if their names were missing within seven days of the announcement and report the omissions to the commission.
According to election law article 14/1, if more than ten voters’ names are missing from the list, district-level election commissions can amendend the list until ten days before the election date.
“District commissions are the ones responsible for amending the lists. More than 5,000 voters’ names were added in Yangon Region (after the first announcement was made),” said Ko Ko.
There are more than 670,000 eligible voters in six constituencies in the Yangon Region, according to voter lists announced March 24 by election commmissions.
Voter list irregularities have been reported all over the country during the run up to the election. For example, in Yangon’s Mayangone constituency, there are 20,000 more names on the list than there should be, said May Win Myint, an NLD candidate competing in the constituency.
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