August 20, 2016

ADVANCE VOTE EXTENSION — Government pledges to resolve complaints from overseas

Myanmar nationals check their names with an officer before casting their votes outside the embassy in Singapore.
Myanmar nationals check their names with an officer before casting their votes outside the embassy in Singapore.

The government has said that it plans to extend the 23 October deadline for advance voting abroad at a number of Myanmar embassies following complaints by frustrated overseas voters.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating with the Union Election Commission (UEC) to extend the deadline for the advance voting, especially at Myanmar embassies in Singapore and Tokyo, U Thant Kyaw, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said in an exclusive interview with Myanmar News Agency.
He said the goal is to ensure that the eligible voters can cast their ballots timely for the advance voting.
He acknowledged that a significant number of complaints had been received from voters abroad who had been issued with less than the three stipulated ballot papers, or were denied the right to vote because their details were not recorded in voters’ lists.
The highest number of complaints were received from Myanmar embassies in Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul, which the deputy minister said was due to those cities having the highest Myanmar expatriate populations.
A contributing factor was the UEC’s confusion over incomplete addresses being given, as well as when voters living overseas failed to include the full details of their address outside Myanmar, said U Thant Kyaw.
Some major administrative errors were also made.
“For example, the ballots for the Myanmar embassy in Tokyo were sent to its embassy in Egypt,” he said.
The ministry sent ballots to the country’s 44 embassies abroad for more than 29,000 people deemed eligible to vote by the UEC.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry has received the list of overseas voters from two embassies who have not voted yet thought they were included in the voters’ list.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry received 34,747 proposals for advance voting from Myanmar people overseas. The proposals were then forwarded to the UEC.
More than 19,800 overseas voters had casted advance votes up to 19 October, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“My experience was frustrating, but at least I was able to vote – I saw two voters ahead of me who were only provided with two ballot papers,” said Thu Rein Lin Hein, a Myanmar citizen living in Singapore.
He also saw people complaining to embassy officials about their names being missing from the voters’ list, he added.
The advance voting period began on 13 and was originally planned to last 10 days. The possible extension period has not yet been specified.
The statement from the UEC urged overseas Myanmar nationals who could not cast their advance votes during the slated period to obtain recommendations from embassy officials so as to be able to cast their votes again on the November 8 election day from inside Myanmar.
Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs U Thant Kyaw requested international observers and diplomats on Tuesday to observe the Vienna Convention and not to interfere in internal affairs of Myanmar on election day.
Chairman of the Union Election Commission U Tin Aye held talks Tuesday in Yangon with representatives from the eight ethnic armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government last week. Discussions focused on the general elections and political campaigning in areas inhabited by the minority ethnic groups.
U Tin Aye also held a meeting with representatives from political parties, civil society organisations and international organisations in Yangon on Tuesday, urging them to follow the codes of ethics and the Election Law while observing the election.
Advance voting in Myanmar will run from 29 October to 7 November and those eligible to cast advance from insider the country include political candidates, local observers, media personnel and departmental officials.
The UEC chairman and representatives of the Myanmar Journalists Association also held talks Tuesday in Yangon over designating spokespersons at sub-election commissions and the association’s observation activities.


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