The Asian Network For Free Elections(ANFREL) calls attention to an important point from November 7th & 8th‘s counting activities that requires the State Peace and Development Council(SPDC) and the Union Election Commission(UEC) of Myanmar to urgently clarify why the counting process was not made transparent to the public and the media beginning with the first advance voting period.
Even though the UEC did not make the official dates of advance voting widely known, it is true that there was an official advanced voting period on the 5th and 6th of November but, unfortunately, many advance votes were taken outside of that official timeframe. The counting of ballots, including ballots from advance voting and oversea voting, has raised many questions that demand an answer.
It is crucial that the UEC and SPDC clarify these questions raised by people from inside and outside Burma:
1. Why was there advance voting taken and counted before the designated period of the 5th & 6th of November? Shouldn’t such voting be considered illegal?
2. Where were ballot papers, for both the advanced voting and for polling day, stored and was any security provided for them? Were party agents not from the USDP allowed to witness the counting at the township office?
3. Did polling station officers announce to the public on November 7th separate results from the advance voting period and those ballots that came from polling day?
4. When was the counting of official advance voting (i.e. those from the 5th-6th of Nov.) done and where was it done?
5. Did the EC at the ward and township level store those ballots used in the advance-voting period in a safe place with neutral security to safeguard them?
6. Did the poll officer mix up the advance voting ballots with the polling day ballots and count them together without informing the public of the amount of the ballots that they received from the ward or township offices?
7. Was there an announcement of the totals of valid, invalid, spoiled, unused, legal and illegal advanced voting at the polling station in front of neutral witnesses? Were any stakeholders invited to observe this process?
ANFREL have suggested to have advance votes counted in as transparent manner as possible alongside, but not combined with, the ballots cast at polling stations. The results of this dual count should be released at every step of the tabulation process, i.e. before the ballots are moved to the ward, township or the state or regional level.
Finally, ANFREL calls on the UEC to heed the call of Myanmar’s citizens and political parties who implore the commission to ensure a transparent counting process. Where there have been complaints about advance voting fraud or an opaque counting process, the UEC must thoroughly investigate these claims while refusing to certify any results until their investigations are complete.
In areas where advance vote totals reveal irregularities or manipulation, a re-vote should be scheduled and those responsible for the manipulation, whether they are officials of the local government office, a party, or the local Election Commission, should be held accountable.
ANFREL respectfully but firmly requests that the UEC and the SPDC act now to save what little legitimacy the election has left by making the counting process more transparent, properly dealing with fraudulent advance votes, and, where necessary, holding a re-vote in all problematic constituencies to correct the flaws in the voting and counting process.