PACE has conducted the nation-wide Election Observation to observe the process of 2015 General Election; voter list update, electoral campaigns, advance voting, voter slip distribution and voting process in Election Day on November 8. About 130 LTO (Long Term Observer) and 2000 STO (Short Term Observer) were involved as the volunteers.
Overall, the elections were peaceful, competitive and open for voters to participate. Interest in the election appeared high with people across the country arriving early to wait in line on election day. The campaign environment was generally free of violence and intimidation, and candidates were able to reach potential voters to compete for their votes. For the most part, the elections were administered competently, but there were some inconsistencies in implementation of policies at the local level and last minute changes in the electoral timeline. Civil society, media and international organizations were able to actively engage in the election process as observers, voter educators and election watchers to a greater degree than previous elections. Although some complaints were filed, the outcome of the elections were generally accepted by the public and political parties.
PACE offers the following recommendations to improve the future electoral process. Some recommendations may be implemented in the short term, while others will require a longer term effort involving coordination by political parties, civil society, parliament and the UEC.
To improve the integrity of future elections, Myanmar’s Parliament should:
- Endorse other international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to bind the government to protect citizen’s rights regardless of race, religion, or gender;
- Prioritize electoral reform as a discussion agenda in Parliament from the beginning so that long term reform, such as laws and by-laws, and short term reform, such as procedures and implementation, could be addressed sufficiently;
- Promote the integrity, transparency, and accountability of elections by guaranteeing the rights of election observation in Laws for Hluttaw Elections;
- Review the structure and appointment of the UEC and sub-commission members and create more transparent procedures for appointment of commission members; and
- Review the scope of duties and broad responsibilities of the UEC (including overseeing political party, organizing elections and judging election complaints) and create a more accountable and neutral structure.
Union Election Commission (UEC)
To increase transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in future election processes, the Union Election Commission should:
- Set a specific date for election day and specific timeline for related activities, such as voter list registration, candidate nomination and elections official training well in advance;
- Appoint sub-commission members in a way that is transparent and open to all citizens;
- Ensure all information related to elections is available at every level of the UEC, is provided in a timely manner, and is easy to access and in a format that is readily useable and analyzable by the public. For example, the numbers and location of polling stations and the preliminary and final voter list should be available well in advance of the election and election results should be available immediately after the election;
- Review and reform the accreditation procedures to remove complex and onerous requirements so that every civil society can engage easily;
- Conduct voter education outreach timely and effectively;
- Develop more effective training programs for the lower level sub-commission members and polling station officials to better understand all procedures;
- Ensure that all polling stations are accessible by the voters, including elderly and people with disabilities;
- Review and amend the current procedures and timeline for the voter list update and display, to create more accessible procedures for the voters;
- Continue the current computerized voter list and update the central server;
- Ensure that communication between union and lower levels is consistent and that instructions are clear so that the lower level commissions can realistically implement procedures;
- Improve coordination between government agencies, especially the General Administration Department (GAD), immigration and sub-commissions;
- Review and reform advanced voting procedures to be clear, secret and inclusive;
- Develop effective mechanisms for voter list registration and voting processes for overseas workers, especially those who are staying where an embassy office is not based;
- Create more clear and transparent procedures for out-of-constituency advanced voting and allow observers to observe the process;
- Review the constituency boundary and take appropriate reform to have equal representation;
- The election results, from the polling station level to the constituency level should be released as quickly as possible and in format that is usable and analyzable by the public; and
- Issue necessary instructions to election sub-commissions in a timely manner and follow the instructions to improve trust among voters and maintain consistent procedures.
To promote more inclusive and competitive elections, political parties should:
- Involve in every phase of electoral cycle, such as pre-electoral preparation, electoral period preparation and post-electoral strategies;
- Develop more effective communication strategies to reach out voters so that voters could receive more information and make more informed decisions;
- Utilize IT as a communication tool to reach out to respective constituencies as IT is developing and widely used in other countries; and
- Maintain the campaign code of conduct and develop more effective committees to mediate disputes in the future.
To promote the role of neutral actors in improving election, civil society should:
- Maintain non-partisanship and neutrality while engaging electoral process;
- Continue to engage the electoral process for electoral reform and create a mechanism to engage with UEC and Parliament; and
- Continue to encourage voters, especially those in underrepresented communities, to participate in the process.
To promote public awareness and participation in elections, the media should:
- Maintain neutrality and non-partisanship in their election reporting;
- Report on the whole electoral process and during the election period, to cover various parties’ and candidates’ activities so that voters are well informed;
- Disseminate voter information and education during the election period, so that the voter awareness and participation can be improved; and
- Cover voter education not only in printed media, and state radio and television station, but also FM stations from every state and region.
To support a better election process in Myanmar, the international community should:
- Provide specific election assistance for civil society, political parties and the UEC so that each stakeholder could develop appropriate programs and take necessary steps for electoral reform based on the finding in the 2015 elections;
- Engage the UEC with specific programs for electoral reform, such as reviewing the legal framework and voter list update process, so that the UEC could continue its professionalization process in the future; and
- Support independent civil society to improve election processes and build public confidence through projects like voter list audits and other observation activities in advance of the next elections.
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