How to prevent vote rigging according to law

Nay Htun Naing
Voter identity cards start issue on November 1 (Photo-Kyaw Zin Win)

The general election is only five days away.

The involvement of the political parties, candidates, media workers, polling booth officials, observers and each and every one of the people is important. Only they can prevent electoral fraud from happening.

There are at least seven ways to cheat the election. But the law can keep them in check.

(1) Using voter lists

One of the commonly used tools to cheat the election is voter list. The Union Election Commission (UEC) did not take responsibility of producing correct and complete voter lists.

Voter identity cards are issued starting from November 1. Everyone should take out these cards and check the final voter lists again.

Section 19(a) of the Election Law instructed that the names, although eligible are not included in the voting roll, insert such names in the supplementary voting roll. If one’s name is not included in the supplementary voting roll, they can file complaint to the sub-commission and inform candidates and election agents.

Anyone can try to reserve their right to vote this way.

Another thing to be kept in mind is that anyone whose name is included in the voter list can object to the inclusion of any person who is not entitled to vote in the list.

Section 18(a) of the Election Law stated that if any person whose name is included in the voting roll of a Ward or Village-tract, desires to object to the inclusion of any person who is not entitled to vote in such voting roll, the objection may be submitted to the relevant Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission in the manner prescribed.

The voters can remove the inclusion of any person who is not entitled to vote as well as the candidates and polling booth officials.

If the names not eligible are included in the voting roll, the commission and sub-commissions can delete such names from the voting roll if someone complained, according to Section 19(b).

So the objection that is in accord with the law should be made.



(2) Confusing process and advance votes

The intricacy in compiling voter lists and voting is also a tool employed in vote rigging. The current election also bears many complexities.

The process in compiling voter lists was confusing. Then the advance voting was also complicated.

For instance, some advance voters in Nay Pyi Taw were recently asked to stamp on the ballot papers since they ticked beside their desired parties in first place.

Various methods given in advance voting are also complicated.

At the same time, 3 million envelopes were issued to use in advance voting, causing concerns if nearly 10 per cent of the total 32 million-plus eligible voters will be rendered advance ballots.

This issue can be tackled by the law.

The candidates and election agents can officially monitor the distribution of advance ballots, lists and voting process.

There are two types of voters valid to cast advance votes. The eligible voter who is included in the voting roll and who will be away from his constituency on the day of election can vote with advance ballot paper. The second type is those who live within their constituency but cannot go to the polling booths.

The civil servants who will go on business trip on the day of election can cast advance votes starting from October 29. The election agents and those who will be away on the day of election can cast advance votes on November 6 and 7, according to the UEC’s instruction on October 27.

 But in reality, some people cast advance votes on October 29 through understanding.

It is worrisome but it can be monitored in line with the law.

Only two things concerned with the advance ballot need caring.

The first thing is the advance ballots come with Form (1-1), Form (1-2) and Form (1-3).

Form (1-1) is for students, prisoners and those in hospitals who applied to vote with Form 15.

Form (1-2) is for servicemen and their family members who are away from their constituency.

Form (1-3) is for those staying abroad by the government’s permission who applied to vote with Form 15.

The forms (1-1) and (1-3) are simple – their in-and-outs are already recorded and therefore there is less chance of electoral fraud.

Form (1-2) needs to be watched – but the candidates now have knowledge of the advance ballots for Defence Services members at sub-commissions.

Another thing to be careful is advance ballots with Form 13.

People can cast advance ballots with Form 13 till November 7. The Form-13 advance ballots are no longer valid after 6 am, November 8. 

Those who cast advance votes with Form 13 must be listed and publicised at the polling booths, according to Section 59(b)(5) and (h) of the election bylaw.

The vote rigging cannot be done with Form 13 advance ballots if it is checked this way. 

The advance voter lists regarding Form (1-1), Form (1-2) and Form (1-3) must be publicised at township, ward or village election sub-commission offices. Advance votes to be sent together with these three forms must be accepted by 4pm. They would not be accepted after 4pm. This procedure is prescribed in Sub-sections (a) and (d) of Section-71 of the Election By-law. Therefore, the acceptance of advance votes after 4pm means the violation of the law. Again, all advance votes with those three forms could not collectively be sent. They must be sent on a first-come, first-sent basis.

We have to keep a watchful eye on advance voting and object to any law violation. In this way, we can prevent voting rigging through advance votes.

(3) On the pretext of religion

Canvassing for votes by directly or indirectly using religion as a tool is another way of vote rigging. This can also be prevented in accord with the law.  

A complaint could be filed against such a case under Sections 57 and 58 (c) of the Election Law. If the accused is guilty, he or she shall face imprisonment.

Section 57 of the Election Law says "whoever is found guilty of violence, threat, undue influence, cheating, taking or giving of bribes to prevent a person from exercising the right of voting and the right to stand for election shall, on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding one hundred thousand kyats or with both."

Meanwhile, Section 58 (c) prescribes "whoever is found guilty of uttering, making speeches, making declarations and instigating to vote or not to vote on grounds of race and religion or by abetment of such acts shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding one hundred thousand kyats or with both."

If anyone who won the election by employing such a way can be punishable. Even after the election, action can be taken against the offender if there is evidence. And this is exactly prescribed in Section 71 (e).

The complaint can be filed not only by a parliamentary candidate but also by any public voter.

This is why we can lodge a complaint with firm evidence against electoral frauds on the pretext of religion. The complaint can be sent before or after the election. If one is found guilty, one could be imprisoned even after being elected.

(4) Buying votes

The election could be rigged after votes have been bought.  It involves taking or giving of bribes.

The case can be filed under Section 57. The provision is concerned with direct buying of votes. If votes were covertly bought, a complaint could be filed with evidence.

Government ministers and officials from the ruling party are now alleged to have been canvassing for votes by spending public funds in the name of regional development. This amounts to indirectly buying votes.

If such cases are true, a complaint can be filed under Section 71 after the election.

(5) Defamation

Defaming a rival candidate's reputation is one electoral fraud. Such cases are really happening now. But they can be prevented by law and those acts could lead to malpractices in election.

Offenders are punishable under Section 66 (a) of the Election Law and in accordance with other existing laws.

If there is strong evidence, complaints can be filed during and after the election.

(6) Threatening

Threatening is a way of doing electoral malpractices. If this happens, we need to gather evidence. Then we can take further steps in accord with the law.

Threatening someone to vote for violates Section 57, and the violator is punishable with a maximum of one –year imprisonment.

If one won the election in a threatening way, his or her election victory could be invalidated under Section 71. For such a case, anyone can file a complaint.

(7) Objection

It is an act of electoral fraud that can invalidate the election of a winning parliamentary representative through objection.

This method can be used by the ruling party as well as opposition parties and public voters.

According to Section 68 (a) of the Election Law and Section 87 of the By-law, a letter of objection could be submitted within 45 days after the lists of elected parliamentary representatives are announced in order to reject an elected parliamentarian in the assumption that the election held in his or her constituency was not fair.

In this regard, the objection can be made by a rival candidate as well as any voters.

If the ruling party attempts to commit an electoral fraud by using this way, the people can counteract in accordance with the law.

Cases of violating the election law must be dealt with police. If an election-related crime happened in a constituency, the complaint could be filed by a certain voter, parliamentary representative or an official from the concerned election sub-commission or polling booth. The law prescribes that such a complaint can be lodged before and during the election as well as 15 days after the election.

This is the warning that legal action can be taken against those who engaged in vote rigging even after the election.