The process conducted on November 3, 2018 was the second by-election held under the NLD government. During the first by-elections, conducted on April 1, 2017, there were 19 vacant constituencies, compared to the 13 vacant constituencies participating in these by-elections. According to the Hluttaw laws amended in 2016, once the speaker of the respective parliament notifies the UEC that a vacancy exists, the by-election should be completed within six months or one year, depending on the remaining term of the Hluttaw. There are still 3 vacant constituencies after this year’s by-elections, but the decision on whether to hold by-elections for those constituencies depends entirely on the speaker of each parliament with vacant constituencies.
In these by-elections, the ruling party, NLD, competed in all 13 vacant constituencies and won seven seats. The main opposition party, USDP, won three seats. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) won one seat; the Chin National League for Democracy Party won one seat; and an independent candidate won one seat. Based on the results of the by-elections, it cannot be concluded that the popularity of the NLD is declining. However, losing seats it won in 2015 in Myitkyina and Seikkan could indicate that the voters’ perception towards the NLD is changing.

Generally, the 2018 by-elections were calm and smooth, but there were no significant improvements in the process. Especially, there were still inconsistencies in several processes, such as the lack of communication on the election calendar and other information, the voter registration process, advance voting, campaign regulations, and election-day management. The next general election, expected in late 2020, will be as important as the 2015 general election for at least two reasons. First, it would mark the first cycle of the country’s electoral process under NLD’s government; and second, the majority of the political actors have recognized that elections are a legitimate mechanism to gain power. Therefore, while the ruling NLD party would try to win as many seats as it did in 2015, the USDP and ethnic minority parties are also conducting preparations to increase their chance of success.
Therefore, it is important for electoral stakeholders to review all three Hluttaw laws, the Union Election Law, the Party Registration Law and all related by-laws or procedures and make any needed amendments before the end of 2019 to meet democratic principles and ensure a level playing field for all parties and candidates.
Overall, after the 2015 general elections the UEC made some improvements. For example, in preparation for the 2017 by-elections, the commission released a detailed timeline of the process much earlier than in 2015, and all of the processes except for the out-of-constituency advance voting were open to the public. During these by-elections, while the UEC tried to continue this precedent, it released only portions of the election calendar at a time, making it impossible for observer groups to observe some processes, such as the advance voting, systematically.

No significant incidents were reported, and the elections were smooth and clean. However, free and fair elections are more than the smooth administration of the electoral laws and by-laws. They are also about processes that are transparent, inclusive and accountable, and that instill confidence among citizens, political parties and candidates. Currently, there are no legal provisions that grant citizens the right to access election information, and there are millions of citizens at the border and inside Thailand who did not have the opportunity to cast their votes in the last elections. As most political parties expect the 2020 general elections to be more competitive than in 2015, it is important that all the laws and regulations be precise and clearly defined, and have been agreed with the political parties. For instance, the law does not protect citizens’ right to observe the election process. Legal provisions and regulations related to campaign finance, the pre-election period, advance voting, the voter list, results tabulation, the publication of results, and electoral dispute resolution mechanisms should be reviewed, clarified and amended at least one year before the 2020 general elections.

On June 29 and 30, PACE deployed 122 enumerators to 122 randomly selected wards and villages to assess citizens’ level of awareness of different electoral processes, their intention to vote and any concerns they could have for the November 3 by-elections. The enumerators interviewed 1,220 citizens as part of the survey.
Level of awareness of the by-elections


Maximizing voter turnout is always one of the biggest challenges in elections. To identify factors that could depress turnout, PACE conducted a survey to assess the level of voter’s awareness and intention to participate in the by-elections.
When PACE’s enumerators asked the respondents if they were aware of the by-elections scheduled for November, nearly half of citizens (48%) said they were aware of the by-elections. More people from urban areas (55%) were aware than people from rural areas (41%). More than half of men (56%) indicated they were aware, compared to 39% of women. Respondents older than 35 (52%) were more likely to say they were aware than younger respondents (38%).

Perception of 2015 voter list

When PACE’s enumerators asked the respondents if their names were on the list used in the 2015 general elections, 80% of the citizens believed that their names were on the list. However, a majority (83%) of respondents who said their names were not on the 2015 list indicated that they had made no effort to get their name included. The main reasons why they did not try included: 28% said they were busy or not interested, 16% said they did not know the procedures, 15% were not 18 years of age in 2015, 12% said they did not have IDs or household list, and 5% were temporary residents, and 3% said that the authorities did not accept their applications,.

Level of awareness and intention to participate in the voter list display

During the 2015 general election and the 2017 by-elections, PACE found that very few people checked their information during the public displays of the voter list at the election sub-commission offices. To measure how much this was related to a lack of information, PACE and PTE assessed the voters’ level of awareness of the voter list display.
PACE’s enumerators asked the respondents “The UEC is planning to conduct a display and update of the voter list in July. Have you heard anything about the voter list display?” Only one third of citizens (33%) said they knew about the voter lists display and more than half (60%) said they did not. Respondents from urban areas (37%) were more likely to say that they knew about the display than those in rural (29%) areas. Men (36%) were more likely to respond “yes” than women (29%). Youth (18-35) were less likely (26%) to say that they knew about the display than the respondents over 35 years old (36%).

Voter education on the voter list display
PACE’s enumerators asked the respondents if they had seen any organization encouraging voters to go to the public voter list display and verify their information. Nearly half of citizens (44%) said they did not see any organization conducting voter education/mobilization. However, citizens did witness some actors encouraging people to verify their information, including local authorities (18%) and election authorities (14%).
PACE’s enumerators also asked the respondents if they knew at which locations they could check their names. More than half of the respondents (59%) said they knew the display locations and 41% said they did not know the display locations. Respondents from urban areas (65%) were more likely to know the display locations than those from rural areas (52%). Men (63%) were more likely to say that they knew the display locations than women (53%).
When PACE’s enumerators asked if respondents planned to verify their information on the list, two-thirds of the respondents (63%) indicated “yes”. There was no difference between respondents from urban (63%) and rural (63%) areas, or between younger (18-35) (62%) and older (35+) (64%) respondents. Men (69%) were more likely to respond “yes” than women (57%).
PACE’s enumerators asked those who indicated they would not check their information on the list why that was the case. Being busy (34%) and a lack of interest (25%) were the main reasons cited.
When PACE’s enumerators asked the respondents if different tools would be useful to verify their information on the voter list other than at the public display, 21% selected Facebook Messenger, 13% SMS text messages, 6% said online/website and 4% said mobile app. A significant number (41%) said they wouldn’t’ find any of those tools useful.
Household list
When PACE’s enumerators asked if respondents’ household list has the same address as the interview location, 87% said they had the same address. The main reasons citizens gave for not updating the address on their household list were: they were tenants or lived there temporarily (44%), they had no household list (23%), they were not interested (14%) or the procedures were complicated (11%). Most (82%) of the respondents whose household list address was different from their residence said that they had lived at their current address for at least six months, which would give them the right to register and vote. However, only half (51%) knew they had this right.
Perception of the by-elections and intention to vote


When PACE’s enumerators asked the respondents if there was anything that worried them about the by-election, the majority of citizens (78%) said they had no concerns at all.
When the enumerators asked respondents if they planned to vote in the by-elections, 83% said yes. There was no difference between respondents from urban (80%) and rural (85%), or between younger (18-35) (82%) and older (35+) (84%) respondents. Men (86%) were slightly more likely to say they would vote than women (79%).


Among the citizens who indicated that they planned to vote, one-third (35%) said that they would because it was their responsibility as citizens, 16% said community development, 16% said they wanted to support a particular party or candidate and 15% indicated that they voted for change.

The UEC organized two public voter list displays during the by-election process. The first display was conducted from July 9 to 21, 2018 and the second from October 1 to 14. PACE and PTE only observed the first display in July. PACE and PTE deployed 121 enumerators to 121 display locations in 12 vacant constituencies on July 9 and 10.
Voter education
PACE and PTE’s observers did not see any voter education materials at most of the display locations. At the locations where the observers found materials, posters were the most common materials present. At most locations near the display centers, there were no organizations conducting voter education. At the locations where observers witnessed voter education, sub-commissions were the main organizations conducting the activities. Civil society organizations were observed conducting civic education near a small number of display locations. However, it is possible that voter education activities could have been conducted in other locations, as observers were only able to monitor locations near the display centers.
At most of the voter list display locations (80%), there were no voter education materials. At 10% of the locations where materials were found, observers saw posters, at 8% they witnessed the use of loudspeakers, at 3% they saw leaflets and at 2% they saw other voter education materials.
At most of the voter list display locations (86%), there were no organizations/groups conducting voter education. In a few locations (14%), sub-commissions conducted voter education and at a very few locations (2%), civil society organizations did so.
Voter list display center management
During the display, observers monitored the display center set-up, including whether required documents were available, if the display center opened according to the official schedule, if applications for changes to the list were accepted, and if regulations and procedures were followed by the display center authorities.
Most of the display centers (86%) started the display on July 9, which was the starting date announced by UEC. The remaining 14% started the display on July 10.
According to the legal framework, citizens who have lived in a location for at least 180 days and are eligible to add their names to the list as temporary residents, even if their household lists are registered at a different location. PACE and PTE found that election sub-commissions did not apply a clear and consistent standard to this rule: 21% of the sub-commissions indicated that they would accept applications from citizens who would have lived in their constituency for more than 180 days as of election day, November 3; 12% required temporary residence of more than 180 days as of May 18, the date when the election was announced; 16% required citizens to have resided in the constituency more than 180 days prior to July 9, the start of the public display. Almost one-third of commissions (29%) indicated that they would not allow the registration of any temporary residents, regardless of the length of residence. This lack of consistency increased the risk of disenfranchisement and undermined the principle of equal application of the law.
At nearly all the display centers (89%), there were all necessary documents required for making changes to voter list. At 6% of the centers, Form 4 was missing; at 6%, Form 4C was missing; at 7%, Form 3 was missing; at 10%, Form 3A was missing; at 10%, Form 4A was missing and at 11%, Form 4B was missing.
Most (86%) of the display centers were accessible to all voters, including the elderly and people with disabilities.
Ease of finding voter information, observation and political parties’ activities
At nearly all the display centers (94%), there were display center authorities; at virtually all of them, they treated all voters equally.
One-third (32%) of observers indicated that it was easy to find voters’ names on the list. However, 26% said that the process was difficult.
Observers faced no restrictions in monitoring the process or searching for voters’ information at any of the display centers.
Observers did not witness any intimidation or disruption at any of the display centers.
Observers did not see political party members or agents present at any of the display centers.

Starting on September 3, PACE collaborated with the local civil society organization Phan Tee Eain (PTE) to deploy 12 long-term observers to observe campaign activities, inquire about official complaints, and monitor whether candidates followed the code of conduct during the campaign period in 12 by-election constituencies.

The following findings represent the viewpoints of individual campaigns as expressed in 353 interviews with candidates or their official staff, responses from 99 interviews at sub-commission offices, 520 interviews with voters and direct observation at 258 rallies. This information does not include activities or viewpoints of party headquarters, other party supporters or other groups. It also does not include information about activities conducted by parties or candidates before the official campaign period began.

Each week, the LTOs interviewed election officials, candidates and ordinary voters, and directly observed campaign rallies. During the observation, PACE and PTE’s LTOs witnessed just one case related to inciting comments against people of other ethnicities during rallies; however, the LTOs did not observe any personal or inciting comments against other candidates when they observed rallies and interviewed the candidates. Sub-commission officials reported that they received two official complaints during the observation. The reasons for the complaints were related to damaged NLD and USDP campaign materials, the NLD’s alleged use of the president’s and state counsellor's images while campaigning, a village head making inciting comments against a candidate, and the use of official resources for the campaign.

When candidates conducted their campaign activities, they mostly distributed materials (66%), conducted rallies (63%) and hung posters (46%). Of the 43 interviewed candidates, 33 said that they had appointed a campaign manager (electoral agent) for their campaign activities; only two of these campaign managers were women. Rallies were mostly held at public places, such as markets and parks, and at private offices or homes. There were a few rallies conducted in religious places. Candidates conducted civic education activities specifically targeted at women in only four of the 12 observed townships.

Campaign policies

PACE and PTE’s LTOs asked candidates about their three main policies for their constituencies, three main policies for their state/region or the whole country, and three main policies to benefit the social, economic and political life of women. The following sections describe the main policies as described by 43 respondent candidates. The LTOs sought information from four categories of political parties: the USDP, the NLD, other big parties in their constituencies, and small parties or independent candidates. The “other big party” category includes parties such as the SNLD, the National Democratic Force (NDF) and the National Unity Party (NUP).

Main policies to benefit the constituency

When observers asked each candidate to name their three main policies to benefit their constituency, “workers’ affairs” was a common theme among all four categories of parties. The following table shows the main policies mentioned by candidates of each of the four categories parties in detail.

USDP NLD Other Big Parties Small Parties and Independent Candidates
  • Constituency development
  • Cost of living
  • Farmers’ affairs
  • Solving issues of the constituency
  • Rule of law
  • Security and safety of the constituency
  • Education
  • National reconciliation
  • Farmers’ affairs
  • Solving issues of the constituency
  • Education
  • Workers’ affairs
  • Constitutional reform
  • Cost of living
  • Rule of law
  • National reconciliation
  • Economic development
  • Peace
  • Federalism and democracy
  • Developing employment opportunities
  • Farmers’ affairs
  • Federalism and democracy
  • Drug fighting
  • Solving issues of the constituency
  • Workers’ affairs
  • Constitutional reform
  • Cost of living
  • Economic development
  • Peace
  • Developing employment opportunities
  • Constituency development
  • Policy of business permits to take natural resources
  • Safety of women and children
  • Farmers’ affairs
  • Peace
  • Constituency development
  • Federalism and democracy
  • Workers’ affairs
  • Cost of living
  • National reconciliation

Main Policies to benefit the state/region or country

When observers asked each candidate to name the three main policies to benefit their state/region or the country, economic development and the rule of law were common main priorities of all four party categories. The following table shows the main policies of each of the four categories parties in detail.

USDP NLD Other Big Parties Small Parties and Independent Candidates
  • Economic development
  • Rule of law
  • Race and religion
  • Farmers’ affairs
  • Cost of living
  • Security and safety of the constituency
  • Federalism and democracy
  • Education
  • National Reconciliation
  • Developing employment opportunities
  • Taxes
  • Constitutional reform
  • Economic development
  • Peace
  • Rule of law
  • National Reconciliation
  • Workers’ affairs
  • Solving issues of the constituency
  • Farmers’ affairs
  • Federalism and democracy
  • Constituency development
  • Constitutional reform
  • Rule of law
  • National reconciliation
  • Workers’ affairs
  • Education
  • Policy of business permits to take natural resources
  • Bureaucratic reform
  • Improving the lives of marginalized women
  • Federalism and democracy
  • Peace
  • Solving issues of the constituency
  • Cost of living
  • Race and religion
  • Taxes
  • Equal rights for women

Main policies to benefit the social, economic and political life of women

When observers asked each candidates their three main policies to benefit women, equal rights for women and the safety of women and children were common main priorities of all four party categories. The following table shows the main policies of each of the four party categories in detail.

USDP NLD Other Big Party Small Party/Independent Candidate
  • Equal rights for women
  • Safety of women and children
  • Promote women’s participation
  • Peace
  • Developing employment opportunities
  • Improving women’s lives
  • Education
  • Developing employment opportunities
  • Improving women’s lives
  • Equal rights for women
  • Safety of women and children
  • Improving women’s lives
  • Equal rights for women
  • Safety of women and children
  • Promote women’s participation
  • Improving the lives of marginalized women
  • Improving women’s lives
  • Equal rights for women
  • Safety of women and children
  • Improving the lives of marginalized women

 

Campaign activities

Campaign volunteers

During the nine weeks of the campaign period, PACE and PTE’s long-term observers conducted 353 interviews with 43 candidates and campaigns representing the USDP, NLD, other big parties, and small parties/independent candidates to learn more about their activities. For consistency, each observer identified one big party (other than NLD and USDP) and one small party or independent candidate, and interviewed those selected campaigns each week.

  • Of the 43 interviewed candidates, 33 (77%) reported that they had appointed a campaign manager (electoral agent) for campaign activities, while nine candidates (21%) said they did not have a campaign manager (electoral agent), and one refused to answer.
  • Of the 33 appointed campaign managers (electoral agents), 31 (94%) were men and only two (6%) were women.
  • On average, NLD and USDP candidates reported having a higher number of volunteers than other big parties and small parties/independent candidates. Only two candidates (5%) reported not having any volunteers at all during their campaigns. Seventeen candidates (39%) reported having volunteers each week, and 25 candidates (57%) indicated that they engaged volunteers during portions of the campaign period.

 

What activities did candidates use to reach voters?

Each week, the LTOs asked the 43 target candidates which outreach activities they conducted the previous week. The figures below aggregate outreach methods used by candidates throughout the first eight weeks of the campaign period. The data does not capture outreach activities taken by parties’ central committees or other party supporters.

  • The most common outreach activities by mentioned candidates during the campaign were distributing materials (66%), followed by holding rallies (63%) and hanging posters (46%). Candidates also reported using parades/loudspeakers (27%), door-to door outreach (22%) and social media/Facebook (11%).
  • Candidates reported using other technologies such as using e-mail, SMS, telephone and Viber, as well as conducting interviews with media to reach voters, only around 1%.

Where were rallies held?

During the campaign period, PACE and PTE’s LTOs observed 110 rallies in urban wards and 148 rallies in rural villages. In total, the observers monitored 258 rallies.

  • Most of the rallies observed by LTOs were held at public spaces, like markets or parks (38%), private offices/homes (30%), religious places (17%) and party offices (7%). Very few campaign events were held in government buildings (2%) or sports stadiums/fields (2%).
  • The USDP and small parties/independent candidates were more likely to use public spaces (like parks, markets, etc.) than candidates from the NLD and other big parties.
  • Other big parties and small parties/independent candidates were more likely to hold rallies in religious places than the USDP and NLD.

 

Who were the speakers at the rallies?

  • At the campaign rallies observed, speakers were more likely to be the candidates themselves (93%), their campaign managers (electoral agents) (47%), party leaders (43%) and celebrities (9%). Community leaders spoke at 2% of rallies, local authorities at 1% and religious leaders at less than 1%.

What materials or resources were distributed by candidates at rallies?

  • At most rallies observed (85%), candidates handed out printed materials. Candidates also distributed other goods, like food (24%) and party souvenirs (24%). At 5% of the observed rallies, candidates did not hand out any goods or materials. Small parties and independent candidates were more likely to distribute party souvenirs or nothing at all than the other categories. There was only one report of money being distributed at a rally during the campaign period.

Did candidates or other speakers use personal or inciting remarks at campaign rallies?

PACE and PTE observed the language of candidates and official speakers at rallies to see if personal or inciting remarks were made. PACE and PTE did not observe the speech of candidates outside of rallies or speech by other actors.

  • At all of rallies observed, LTOs witnessed only one instance of a speaker making any personal or inciting comments against another candidate.
  • LTOs did not witness the use of state vehicles or other resources at any of the observed rallies. They observed a disruption at a rally held by a small party or independent candidate.

Did candidates say they faced any problems?

LTOs asked the 43 target candidates if they had faced any problems in the campaign. Although most candidates did not report facing any challenges, a few candidates were able to identify some potential issues.

  • In 3% of the interviews, candidates said they faced external interference in their campaign activities.
  • In 2% of interviews, candidates reported that some of their property/ campaign materials had been destroyed by external persons.
  • There was a very small number of reports of candidates who reported having problems with friends/family (two reports) or at work (two reports).
  • At 5% of the interviews, candidates reported being asked to change the date and time for rallies/campaign events. In 3% of interviews, candidates said they were asked to change the location for rallies/campaign events. All of these reports were related to campaigns in Minbu (Magway), Rathedaung (Rakhine) and Tamu (Sagaing), and affected all four party categories.
  • At two interviews, small parties or independent candidates reported that they had been asked to cancel rallies or campaign events.
  • In 2% of interviews candidates said they had any other problems related with campaign activities.
  • At one of the interviews, the candidate indicated that he suffered physical threats or harm.
  • In 4% of interviews, candidates indicated that they had filed complaints related to the above problems.

Complaints related to the campaign

PACE and PTE’s LTOs also conducted weekly interviews with sub-commission officials in each by-election township to gather information on formal complaints submitted by parties during the course of the campaign, such as number of complaints, who filed the complaints and against whom. The following table presents a summary of the complaints received by the sub-commission offices.

Party submitting the complaint Number of complaints Group(s) or person(s) mentioned in the complaint
USDP 4 NLD, unknown persons
NLD 5 Other big parties, unknown persons
Other parties 0
Independent Candidates 3 Village head, unknown persons

During the course of interviews, sub-commission officials refused to answer questions about complaints four times. The following table provides information on the causes of the complaints.

Source of Complaints Causes of Complaints
USDP
  • Campaign materials damaged
  • Using the images of the president and state counsellor
  • Violence
NLD
  • Campaign materials damaged
  • Personal or inciting comments against a candidate
Independent Candidates
  • Personal or inciting comments against candidates

Voter education for women

PACE and PTE’s LTOs asked both the candidates and sub-commission officials if they had conducted voter education activities for women during the campaign.

  • At 9% of the interviews, sub-commissions reported that they had conducted voter education activities for women the previous week. No other sub-commission reported conducting events targeted at women. Sub-commissions reported conducting these activities in Oktwin (Bago), Matupi (Chin), Tamu (Sagaing) and Seikkan (Yangon).
  • In 7% of the interviews, candidates said they had conducted voter education activities for women the previous week. Candidates reported conducting these activities in Matupi, Myitkyina, Tamu and Seikkan. Candidates from all four party categories indicated that they conducted voter education activities for women at some point during the campaign.

Citizens’ opinion on the campaign

During the campaign period, PACE and PTE’s long-term-observers also asked 520 voters from both urban and rural areas to understand their perception of the campaign activities going on in their communities. Observers targeted five different demographic categories: average men, average women, youth, ethnic minorities, and migrants or low-income workers.

  • Of the respondents interviewed, 78% said they did not see any voter education programs specifically targeting women.
  • More than half of respondents (54%) indicated that they had seen between one and five campaign activities in their areas the prior week, while 17% reported seeing between 6 and 10 activities, and fewer than 1% said there were more than 10. Ten percent of the respondents said they did not see any campaign activities in their areas the previous week.
  • Of those who reported having seen at least some campaign activities, 76% said campaigns distributed materials, 67% reported rallies, 49% parades with loudspeakers, 31% hanging posters, 17% door-to-door outreach, and 13% engagement through social media or Facebook.
  • Of those who reported having seen at least some campaign activities, 83% indicated the NLD conducted some of these activities, 64% saw the USDP and 45% saw other parties.
  • Around half (52%) of respondents who were aware of campaign activities did not attend any of these events; 47% reported that they attended at least one rally or other campaign activity the previous week.
  • When the respondents were asked if they faced any problem for supporting any particular party, 82% said they did not face any problem, 1% said they faced problems with friends or family, and less than 1% reported instances of vote buying.
  • More than half (59%) of respondents said that they did not have any concerns regarding the by-elections. A small percentage (16%) said they were concerned about the accuracy of the voter list, 13% about potential bias by the election commission, 10% about cheating or fraud, 9% about election day administration, 6% about the long distance to their polling station, 3% about discrimination based on religion or ethnicity, and 3% about personal safety or security.

On November 1 and 2, 11 LTOs observed the stationary and mobile aspects of in-constituency advance voting in 16 wards and village tracts of 12 townships conducting by-elections. PACE and PTE were unable to monitor the in-constituency advance voting conducted in institutions prior to November 1 because the schedule was publicly released just a few days before the advance voting began and there was not sufficient time to prepare to observe the process. Observers also were unable to monitor the out-of-constituency advance voting process, which was conducted in a non-transparent manner outside of the control of the election authorities. PACE and PTE’s findings include:
PACE and PTE’s observers were allowed to observe both the stationary and mobile voting without restrictions and no problems were reported during either process.
In all observed locations, the secrecy of the vote was respected both at the sub-commission offices and during mobile voting.
Of the mobile ballot boxes accompanied by observers, 12 visited voter’s homes, three visited institutions (hospitals, elder care facilities, etc.), and one visited a government facility such as a civil service office or military barracks.
Elderly people cast ballots in 12 out of the 13 mobile ballot boxes accompanied by observers, sick, infirm or hospitalized persons in 11, persons with disabilities in 10, military personnel in four, and election officials in two.
Election officials cast ballots at 11 of the 16 observed ward and village tracts, people with travel plans at eight, elderly people at seven, ill persons at five, civil servants at five and persons with disabilities at three.
Observers reported that all citizens who voted either at the sub-commission office or during mobile voting were added to the Advance Voter List (Form 13).
Observers witnessed no major problems during either their stationary or mobile observation.
Observers reported that materials were stored securely overnight at all observed wards and village tracts.

On November 3, PACE and PTE deployed 579 observers to observe by-elections in 12 out of the 13 vacant constituencies. All STOs were instructed to arrive at their assigned polling stations by 5 am to observe the preparation and set-up of the polling stations, as well as the voting, closing and counting processes, using a systematic election day checklist.
Generally, election day was smooth and no significant incidents were reported. According to the observation findings, there were no major improvements in the election administration compared with the 2017 by-elections. Instead, a lack of specific guidelines and procedures resulted in an inconsistent election management. For instance, there was confusion among polling station officers on the roles and rights of party agents and observers, and there were inconsistencies on the use of the voter list. Some of these issues could be addressed with more effective training of polling station officers.
Detailed findings are as follows:

Arrival and Setup

- Almost all observers (96%) were permitted to enter their assigned polling stations before voting began. The incidents of observers (4%) who were initially not allowed to monitor the setup procedures were quickly addressed with the assistance of election authorities. In most of these isolated cases, polling station officers incorrectly asked observers to provide Form 8, which is the assignment form of party agents.
- More than half of the polling station officers (55%) were women, including 97% in Yangon and 49% outside of Yangon. Of all the polling station members, 59% were women and 41% were men.

The UEC allowed persons with disabilities to register as such in the voter list. The commission used this information to either provide accessible polling stations or enable home voting as part of the in-constituency advance voting process. Around half (54%) of polling station facilities were accessible to voters who use wheelchairs. However, these voters would not be able to access 46% of the polling stations without assistance. A slightly lower proportion of polling stations (44%) provided at least one voting booth for voters who use wheelchairs; in the remaining 56%, those voters using wheelchairs would lack accessible voting booths. While the UEC has made efforts to enable voters to disability to vote from home, more will be needed before the participation of persons with disabilities in elections -- as voters, observers or party agents -- is mainstreamed as described by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Myanmar has joined.
In 78% of polling stations, Form 13 (Advance Voting) was posted outside the polling station; this was not the case in 22% of polling stations.
At the time of opening, almost all polling stations (97%) had all necessary materials. In 3% of the polling stations, Forms 16 and 17 were missing.
In most polling stations (95%), voting began by 6:30 am, while in 5% voting started after that time.

Voting process

No party or candidate agents were present during the voting process in 12% of polling stations. Agents for the NLD were present in 83% of polling stations and agents from the USDP in 69%, while agents from ethnic parties were present in 26% and those representing independent candidates were present in 19% of polling stations. Agents from other parties were present in 9% of the polling stations. Representatives from NLD and USDP had greater presence in Yangon than in other locations, while agents for ethnic parties had more presence outside of Yangon.
There were no unauthorized persons present at the polling stations.
In 80% of polling stations, voters’ fingers were checked for ink before they entered the polling stations. However, in 9% of polling stations, few people (1-20) and in 11% of polling stations, more than 20 people were allowed to enter the polling stations without their fingers being checked. More than 20 people were allowed to enter the polling stations without checking their fingers more often in unban polling stations (22%) than in rural ones (7%). At 24% of polling stations in Yangon, more than 20 people were allowed to enter the station without checking their fingers, compared to 9% of the polling stations outside Yangon.
All voters were asked to show proof of identity documents (such as a voter slip or National Registration Card) at 65% of polling stations. However, in 15% of polling stations between 1 and 20 people were allowed to vote without checking any proof, and more than 20 people were allowed to vote without checking any proof in 20% of the polling stations. While there is no legal requirement to present a national registration card when voting, these findings seem to indicate that this is an area where future elections could benefit from greater consistency.
In 50% of polling stations, there were no cases of people being turned away at the polling station because they were not on the voter list. However, in 42% of polling stations, 1-10 people were turned away and in 4%, 11-20 were turned away because they were not on the voter list. To minimize this issue for the 2020 elections, PACE and Phan Tee Eain urge the UEC to seek simpler ways for voters to verify and update their information on the list, and to find their name on the list on election day.
In nearly all polling stations (90%), every voter whose name was on the voter list was allowed to vote. However, in 9% of stations, a few voters (1-10) and in 1% (11-20) citizens were not allowed to vote even though their names were on the voter list.
In almost all polling stations (94%), observers found that people whose names were not on the voter list were not allowed to vote. However, in 5% of the polling station a few voters (1-10) whose names were not on the list were allowed to vote.
Voters were able to cast their votes in secret in nearly all polling stations (94%).
In nearly all polling stations (96%), all voters’ fingers were marked with ink before they left. However, in 4% of polling stations, between 1 and 10 voters left without having their fingers inked.
Observers did not witness any instances of intimidation or harassment of voters inside or in the immediate vicinity of the polling station during the voting process.
In nearly all polling stations (92%), no voters were in queue at 4 pm; all voters who were in queue at 4 pm were allowed to vote.
At nearly all polling stations (96%), no voters arrived after 4 pm. At the 4% of polling stations where voters arrived after closing time, these voters were not allowed to vote.
At most polling stations (96%), no parties were allowed to campaign within 500 yards of the polling station premises. Observers witnessed the USDP campaigning at 3% of polling stations, and both NLD and independent candidates campaigning at 1.5% of stations.
Observers were allowed to fully observe the voting process at 97% of polling stations. However, in a few polling stations (3%), observers were allowed to monitor the process with some restrictions.
Closing and counting
In almost all polling stations (99%), observers, agents and eyewitnesses were allowed to remain in the station after it closed.
In almost all polling stations (98%), the count was conducted so that observers could see how the ballots were marked.
Officials declared ballots invalid in a consistent manner at most (99%) polling stations.
There were no party or candidate agents present during the count in 10% of polling stations. Agents for NLD were present at 83% of polling stations and USDP at 70%. Agents from ethnic parties were present at 27% and agents from independent candidates were present at 20% of polling stations. Agents from other parties were present at 10% of polling stations.
After the count, ballots and forms were sealed inside tamper evident bags in almost all (99%) polling stations.
In 97% of polling stations, results forms (Form 16) were posted for public viewing after the count was completed. However in 3% of polling stations, results forms were not posted
In almost all polling stations (98%), there was no intimidation, harassment or interference in the counting process.
At nearly all polling stations (93%), no party or candidate agents raised complaints to the station officer during the counting process. Agents for the NLD raised complaints at 6% of stations, USDP agents raised complaints at 4% of stations, ethnic party agents at 1% of stations, and agents for other parties and independent candidates’ agents at less than 1% of stations.

After polling stations closed on November 3, PACE and PTE deployed observers to all 12 townships election sub-commissions to monitor the tabulation of results. The observation’s main findings include:

  • At four of the 12 observed locations, tabulation ended on election day, November 3. The process finished on November 4 at an additional eight locations.
  • All observers were allowed to observe the process in all tabulation centers. Observers were also able to see the marks on out of constituency advance votes as they were counted.
  • There were reports that some observers were not allowed to see the form summarizing the results of the out of constituency advance voting (Form 18). Observers reported that they were able to witness as the results form (Form 19) was filled only in half (50%) of the tabulation centers. Observers did not report any cases of tabulation officials making significant changes to the polling station results (Form 16), and only one case where the information was changed to correct mathematical errors.
  • Party agents were present at all tabulation centers on election night and at six of the eight observed locations the day after the election.
  • Election materials were stored securely at all tabulation centers.
  • Observers reported only one instance of interference, harassment or intimidation during the tabulation process.
  • Observers reported only one official complaint submitted on election day evening by a political party.
  • At all centers where tabulation ended by November 4, township-level results forms (Form 19) were posted once the process was completed.

Throughout its comprehensive observation of the 2018 by-election process, PACE together with PTE designed and implemented systematic methodologies to ensure that their findings accurately represented the observed aspects of the process. When possible, PACE and PTE used statistically random samples, which allowed it to assess the quality of the process throughout the by-election areas.

When training the volunteer observers, PACE and PTE emphasized their commitment to nonpartisanship and independence, as well as the observer code of conduct. Observers received information about the observation methodology, including how to complete and submit the survey questionnaires and observation checklists.

PACE and PTE recruited and deployed a total of 751 observers in five different groups as described in the table below. Some of the observers monitored more than one component of the election process. PACE and PTE also recruited 76 data center volunteers and 17 state and regional coordinators. Around half of the volunteers were women.

 

Men Women Total
Group 1

  • Pre-election survey and Voter-list-display monitoring
  • Spot Checker
  • Total
63 59 122
11 3 14
74 63 136
54% 46%
Group2

  • Campaign Observation
12 0 12
100% 0
Group 3

  • In Constituency Advance Vote Observation
5 6 11
45% 55%
Group 4

  • Sample-Based Observation STOs
305 274 579
53% 47%
Group 5

  • Tabulation
5 7 12
42% 58%
Total 401 350 751
53% 47%

 

The sections below provide additional details regarding the methodologies PACE and PTE used during the different phases of its observation.

Pre-election survey

To assess the overall level of awareness of the by-elections and its processes, PACE surveyed citizens of Myanmar who were 18 years or older at the time of the survey. To capture the opinions across the by-elections areas, PACE conducted the survey in the 12 townships that were scheduled to conduct by-elections in November 3, 2018, both in urban and rural locations. PACE’s survey was conducted in June 29-30, 2018 in a total of 122 villages and wards in all the by-election areas. The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 1,220 respondents.

The survey was conducted according to internationally recognized methods of random statistical sampling as detailed below.

Step 1: Stratification by township. Using data from the 2017 population projections by Myanmar Population and Housing Census, PACE calculated the proportion of adult population in each township and allocated the same proportion of survey locations to that township.

Step 2: Stratification by urban and rural. Using the population information described above, PACE calculated the proportion of urban and rural population within each township. Based on the proportion within each township, PACE allocated the same proportion of survey locations between urban wards and rural villages.

Step 3: Random sample of villages and wards. Based on the allocations for each township and allocations for urban and rural locations, PACE selected wards and villages using simple random sampling. PACE used a list of wards and villages in each township compiled by the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) as a sampling frame. A total of 122 villages and wards were selected as target survey locations for the sample.

Step 4: Random household selection. Trained enumerators traveled to survey locations where they randomly selected households using a random walk sampling method beginning in a randomly selected starting point. Enumerators selected every 10th residence in rural locations (villages) and every 20th residence in urban locations (wards).

Step 5: Random respondent selection. Once a household had been selected, PACE enumerators randomly selected a resident (male and female alternatively) of that household who was over 18 and a citizen of Myanmar. Respondents were selected using the “lucky draw” method. In total, each PACE enumerator was tasked to interview 10 respondents in each village/ward location.

Step 6: Analysis. Following data collection, the data was weighted by non-response in rural/urban and state/region to bring the realized sample in line with the actual distribution in Myanmar. There may be slight variations between numbers presented due to rounding where the difference is never greater than one percent. For all questions, an average of 1% of respondents refused to answer.

 

PACE SURVEY OVERVIEW
Estimated adult population in the by election area 784,264
Number of Interviews for analysis 1,220
Margin of error +/- 2.8 percent at 95% level of confidence
Dates of data collection June 29-30, 2018

 

(The calculation of margin of error will increase for any sub-groups analysis: +/- 4.1 percent for urban, +/- 4.1 percent for rural; and +/- 4.0 percent for gender.)

Campaign environment

PACE and PTE deployed 12 long-term observers (LTOs) from September 3 to November 2 to 12 townships participating in the by-elections. PACE and PTE’s LTOs conducted 353 interviews with candidates from four party categories: 1) the USDP; 2) the NLD; 3) other big parties in the township; and 4) small parties and independent candidates. In weekly interviews, the observers asked candidates questions about their campaign activities and challenges that they faced.

PACE and PTE also observed 258 rallies conducted by candidates from the same four party categories. PACE and PTE did not observe informal party gatherings or other political events conducted by other actors. In some cases, PACE and PTE were unable to observe rallies in very remote locations due to logistical challenges. PACE and PTE did not directly observe other political events or speeches by those not formally affiliated with the candidate.

PACE and PTE’s observers also conducted 99 interviews with members of the township sub-commission offices during the observation period. The LTOs asked how many official complaints had been submitted by candidates the previous week, and if the commission had conducted any voter education targeted at women.

Finally, PACE and PTE’s LTOs conducted 520 interviews with different categories of voters -- women, men, youth, ethnic minorities and migrant/industrial/low-income workers -- within each by-election constituency.

PACE and PTE’s methodology was designed to identify trends in the overall campaign environment. It did not focus on particular candidates, political races or incidents that may have been covered by media reports.

Voter list update process

On July 9 and 10, PACE and PTE deployed 121 observers to monitor the public display of the voter list at 121 randomly selected display centers across eight states and regions. During this process, PACE and PTE focused only on the UEC’s process to update the voter list, and not on the completeness or accuracy of the voter list itself.

Specifically, the observers monitored the level of voter engagement, the efficiency of the sub-commission’s capacities and procedures, and the presence of party representatives at the display locations. Each observer was assigned to observe a specific display center for the duration of his or her deployment.

In-constituency advance voting

PACE and PTE deployed 11 long-term observers for four days to a randomly-selected sample of wards and village tracts to monitor the advance voting process both at the sub-commission offices and during mobile voting. Each LTO was tasked to observe at his or her assigned sub-commission office during office hours and follow the mobile ballot box if there were mobile voting.

PACE and PTE observers focused on the voting process, including whether the UEC’s procedures and guidelines were followed by officials, whether citizens were able to cast their votes without any intimidation, and whether the secrecy of the vote was ensured.

Election Day Sample Based Observation

On November 3, PACE and PTE deployed 579 nonpartisan observers to polling stations in 12 by-election constituency to conduct a Sample Based Observation (SBO) of election-day procedures. A Sample Based Observation (SBO) is an advanced observation methodology that employs well-established statistical principles and sophisticated information technology. An SBO involves the use of a representative sample of all polling stations conducting elections to systematically assess the quality of the voting and counting process on election day. SBOs provide the most timely and accurate information on the conduct of voting and counting.

PACE and PTE’s SBO for the 2018 by-elections involved deploying citizen observers to a random sample of 271 polling stations in the 12 target by-election constituencies. PACE and PTE’s citizen observers arrived to their assigned polling stations at 5:00 am. They observed the setup of polling stations, voting, counting, and the announcement and posting of results. Throughout the day, observers called the data center at four designated times to report their observations. The SBO observers collected and reported at least 18,000 data points.

Tabulation

PACE and PTE deployed 12 observers to monitor the results tabulation process at tabulation centers at each of the 12 target townships. The LTOs began their observation on election day at 3 pm, and stayed at the tabulation centers until the tabulation process was completed. If necessary, they were instructed to return to the tabulation center the following day to observe the rest of the process.

PACE and PTE’s observers focused on the level of transparency and accountability by observing whether the results were recorded correctly, whether election officials followed all the guidelines and procedures regarding the tabulation, and whether observers and party agents were allowed to witness the process.