Are you sure who won an election? (1)

Writer: 
Min Lwin (Medicine 2)

A comment in President Thein Sein’s radio speech on October 6 stood out. He said, in the next parliamentary term, the Constitution would be amended so city and township councils would be elected by the public rather than appointed by the government.

Thein Sein seems to be expecting to govern for the next five years. It goes without saying that everyone dreams of victory in a competition. No one would compete unless there was hope of a win. However, if he is over confident of a victory, there might be something behind it. The advance votes are not collected yet so it is difficult to estimate which party is in the lead.

Ahead of a football match we would consider various factors, including home advantage, injuries, form and previous results between the teams and the two managers. However, we have seen many upsets.

The November 8 election is already showing signs of unfairness, rather like a corrupt football referee.

Electoral fraud can swing results wildly. Many tactics employed by unsavoury political parties are outlawed under criminal law, like violence, insults, nuisance and slander. Other forms of electoral cheating, while not enforceable under the law, violate the basic principles of democracy.

Public confidence in democracy will be distorted if no action is taken against cheats. The public will not accept the election result and the subsequent rulers if they doubt the election proceedings. Dictatorships arise from shambolic elections.

Cheating can be committed at every stage of an election but most fraud happens during a campaign, while voters are being registered and ballots counted. The two main types of electoral cheating are barriers to independent voting and fiddling with ballots.

The authorities can gerrymander a constituency to ensure a result. Kuwait in the 1980s provides a colourful example. Large numbers living temporarily can be allowed to vote to swing a result.

The minimum time someone must live in a constituency before they are allowed to vote can be manipulated to exclude homeless, travellers, students and casual.

Voters in public housing have seen their votes moved to another constituency if the authorities are unhappy with their preferences. Immigration laws can also be exploited to shift an area’s demographic balance.

The authority’s can ban prisoners, immigrants, ethnic minorities or religious groups from voting. Literacy can also be exploited to remove voters from the electoral roll.

To be continued.