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November 17, 2019

Yangon hosts first municipal polls in six decades

Photo taken on election day of Yangon’s first  municipal polls in six decades, a ward dweller  casting his ballot at a polling station in Yangon west district.
Photo taken on election day of Yangon’s first municipal polls in six decades, a ward dweller
casting his ballot at a polling station in Yangon west district.

Despite low public interest in Yangon City Development Committee elections, Yangon, the former capital and biggest commercial hub in the country, held municipal polls on Saturday for the first time in six decades.
A total of 1,086 voting stations at designated schools opened across the city’s municipal areas early Saturday morning for 401,634 voters who were listed as heads of household or an only person in a household who could vote for the candidates.
“Only 56 voters had cast ballots as of 12 noon”, a teacher who has been assigned election duty at a polling place in the city’s north district told The Global New Light of Myanmar.
Another teacher, who was serving as the returning officer of the polling station in a ward where there are two polling stations and more than 1,000 voters had been registered to cast votes, confirmed only 56 people turned out before noon to cast their votes.
Similar situations happened in other wards of a township in the district, reflecting an apparent lack of public interest in the municipal elections in which 293 candidates are running for 115 seats at the committee’s central, district and township levels.
“I saw a small number of voters coming in to cast their ballots, but I have done my duty of voting as a Yangonite”, said a 50-year-old man, citing only one or two polling places set up in each ward as another reason for a low voter turnout in the elections.
“Most people are not willing to go there for the booths are far from their places”, he said.
“Candidates who got 1,000 votes at least can win,” one of candidates for a Yangon West District seat posted as his status on Facebook.
Although electoral turnout appeared to be low in Yangon’s historic municipal elections and low interest in and lack of public awareness of the polls are attributed to a low turnout of voters, some people coming to vote found out they were not on the voter lists that allow one voter per household.
“I feel upset when I get denied to cast vote as my father, head of household, was registered in the list”, said a 22-year-old man on his way back home.
“I came here to vote as a family member of our household because my father is medically unable to vote in person”, the young man told staff at the polling station.
“Absentee voting is not allowed”, an official responsible for municipal elections told the GNLM. Any family members who failed to register in the list during the voting registration will not be allowed to vote on election day in the place of registered voters or heads of households, he went to say.
“Through the ways of placing voters’ list boards in front of my office and using loudspeakers to inform them of rules and regulations, I informed ward dwellers or heads of households before the election kickoff that one family member who is at 18 at least can register to vote if the head of household is unable to get to the polling place,” a ward administrator said.  The public had little knowledge of the municipal poll and candidates running for municipal office, said a middle-aged man who is a registered voter.
“I don’t know who I should vote for, so I am not willing to vote,” he added, scanning through some leaflets of candidates over his breakfast at a roadside tea-shop.
Yangon City Development Committee opened up a total of 115 seats — four posts for the city’s committee, 12 posts at district level and 99 posts at the township level — for 293 candidates standing for elections in the city with a population of about 5.2 million as of 2014.

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