There are three important steps that need to be done to prevent electoral frauds and vote rigging.
To correct the voter lists is the first step. The second step is to monitor during the voting day, and the third is to closely watch the announcement of the results. President is not taking responsibility for mistakes in the voter lists. On his October 6 radio speech, he asked for cooperation between the public, election commission, and concerned organizations.
Even though he did not take responsibility for the voter lists, President Thein Sein included in the speech that he plans on amending the constitution so that township level administration will be transformed into public management. That proves that he is planning for a second term.
To be selected for the second term, his supporters must win the parliamentary elections. It will never be a fair election if the winner emerges as a result of incorrect and incomplete voter lists.
Carter Center, an international organization allowed to monitor the election, released second report and it reads ‘Carter Center observers found that throughout the country, and particularly in ethnic states, there is a widespread assumption that errors (in the voter lists) are evidence of deliberate attempts at manipulation’.
Extra numbers of voters remaining in the hands of UEC
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) stated on October 3 that there are hundreds of thousands of extra voters included in the lists across the country. I urge the election sub-commissions to remove the number of extra voters. According to data I received, the actual numbers can be more than hundreds of thousands. It would be millions.
The power to cheat the elections through the extra number of voters lies in the hand of local authorities and Union Election Commission (UEC).
Like Hlaingthaya, South Okkalapa Township also contains more than 90,000 extra voters. The reason given was it was a result of not changing household registration from 1989.
In the 2010 election, it is said that many people that did not live in the township were listed as people living in slams. This time, more than 90,000 people are added in the voter list without them actually living in the township.
2014 household registration shows 161,126 people live in South Okkalapa Township. On average, more than half of the population, 80,000, are over 18 year of age and eligible to vote. After the voter lists were announced in 2015, the amount jumped to 170,000 by adding 90,000 extra voters.
The extra 150,000 voters included in the list in Hlaingthaya Township were not removed either. It is said that cannot be done under the existing laws. It is the same in South Okkalapa Township. However, District Election Commission promised to check them out of the list at the Election Day so that they will not be able to vote.
Like Hlaingthaya and South Okkalapa, many constituencies contain extra voters in the voter lists. The power to remove (or replace) the names is in the hand of the commission. If they are not removed, that can be said it is done to cheat the votes.
Potential vote rigging at industrial zones and slams
It is easier to cheat the votes by manipulating internal migrants, factory workers, and slam dwellers while there are extra numbers of voters in the voter lists.
During the 2010 election, staffers from karaoke and massage parlors that cannot object the local authorities (since most of their businesses run illegally) were forced to vote in groups. The same goes for factory workers. The problem still persists.
Myanmar Network Organization for Free and Fair Election (MYNFEREL) working on voter education stated on October 6 that places where most of slam dwellers and factory workers live show possibility for vote rigging.
There are 27 wards in Shwepyitha Township. 10 out of them are mostly occupied by slam dwellers. They range from at least 1,000 to 5,000. On average, tens of thousands of people in a single township are slam dwellers. When they were asked, two different answers were given: that they have never been accounted for voter list and that their factory foremen collected their information for voter lists.
Like Shwepyitha, places where there are internal migrants, slam dwellers, and industrial zones will see them being manipulated.
Internal migrants and slam dwellers are allowed to register for voting by fill Form 3 (a) until October 10. The lists have not come out yet.
Their right to vote depends on the local authorities’ recommendation, making it a card in hand.
By estimation, nearly 500,000 people are living in Yangon Region as slam dwellers. Their right to vote is still in the hands of local authorities. It is easy for them to allow or bar the migrants to vote if the voters support a certain candidate.
Another method is incentives. To prevent this, locals and election observers need to stop strangers coming in groups to cast their ballots at the Election Day.
900,000 voters in abroad
The combined amount of extra voters in the voter list, internal migrants, and slam dwellers make up millions. That is more than enough to stage an electoral fraud.
Another method is Myanmar citizens in other countries. According to 2014 household registration, nearly 2 million people are in abroad. More than half of them are eligible to vote.
Out of them only 34,844 registered to cast advance vote with the consent of the government. The government has never urged the migrant workers to encourage hundreds of thousands of the voters to cast their ballots.
Given the current circumstances, out of the million eligible voters, only about 3.4 percent will cast advance votes. If the rest do not come back to vote during the election period, they are losing their rights. Moreover, their names may be left out from the voter lists. Other people may also be used to vote in their place.
According to 2014 household registration, most of the migrant workers are from Mon State. The second is Kayin State and Shan State follows. Therefore, if votes are cheated using the names of people in abroad, that will happen in those places.
Voting in someone’s place is illegal. However, it was more or less done in previous elections. It will be done in the upcoming election. It is highly possible as a result of the mistakes in the voter lists.
Public is the only one to turn to
At the moment, the actions of election observers are not satisfactory. Similarly, international election observers are not dependable.
A strategy to prevent electoral frauds and vote rigging was mapped since 2013. USAID helped created the strategy and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)cooperated with UEC to implement it.
Even though the much-boasted strategy was mapped with international help, a correct voter list has not come out yet.
IFES was founded on 1987. It worked in 145 countries. It officially entered Myanmar in 2012 and provided trainings together with UEC. They provided technical assistance in registering the voter lists. Now that many mistakes are included in the voter lists, UEC chairman blame IFES for technical difficulties. However, IFES is quiet on the issue.
USAID is no different from IFES. It provided assistance in Myanmar’s development projects. They started the assistance in 2000 and dramatically increased after 2008. A good example for USAID is IRI report. The reported was published in 2014, and its findings are very different from the actual data in the country. USAID provided funding for the report.
Both USAID and IFES have been providingassistance for UEC. They have already realized accurate voter lists are vital to ensure a fair election. Still, they are both quiet to comment on the mistakes contained in the voter lists.
The international organizations permitted to be election observers are another case. The most influential and important ones are Carter Center and European Union.
Carter Center was founded in 1989. They monitored more than hundred elections in 39 countries.
By inviting such organizations, the government is portraying as attempting to ensure a fair election. They said so during a meeting on Myanmar in Washington D.C.
VOA posted a news story saying the US urged Myanmar that the 2015 election reflects the will of the people during the meeting.
In the story, presidential economic advisor Dr. Zaw Oo, (?????) U Win Min, and Yangon University International Relation Department Head Dr. Chaw Chaw Sein, who attended the meeting, were quoted.
Dr. Chaw Chaw Sein commented, “As for me, since I am a (Myanmar) citizen, I do not worry as much as they do because the election is still to be held. There are (people) saying it will be unfair. It is also said that UEC is the most responsible (for the elections) to be free and fair. Look who Union Election Commission is working together. Carter Center based in the US will send international observers for the elections. Therefore, I believe the election results will be widely acceptable”. Her point is the same as the government’s portrayal.
It is that the election will be free and fair since they are working together with international observers. Even if they try to put on the mask, election will never be fair if the voter lists are incorrect.
International observers will be able to do nothingif the electoral frauds and vote rigging are done through incorrect voter lists.
2013 elections in Zimbabwe and Cambodia are examples.
In the Zimbabwe election, Mugabe kept his control on the ruling power through vote rigging. Even though many people strongly stated that the election was not fair, EU was only ‘worried’ and failed to use stronger words. The same goes for the US who said ‘(the election) did not occur as the Zimbabwe citizens believed’.
The situation was no different in Cambodia. EU and the US only said they were ‘worried’ while Hun Sen managed to win the election through electoral frauds and vote riggings.
These are proves that working with the international organizations do not guarantee neither a free and fair election nor an electoral result that most of the people can accept.
At the moment, the most important thing is to ensure accurate voter lists. Both President Thein Sein and UEC Chairman Tin Aye are not taking responsibility for ensuring correct voter lists. Therefore, the public is the only one to rely on. By the will and force of the people, the voter lists must be corrected, and electoral frauds must be prevented.
To be continued.