Balanced, neutral and honorable commission, laws, by-laws, rules and regulations are the key for a free and fair election. Fairness of elections will be nothing if rules and regulations are too strict to follow though the commission is balanced and neutral and if the commission is unfair though laws and regulations are fair.
The Union Election Commission prepares its step to control electioneering of political parties, party leaders and their relying on the media for their electioneering. To look back to the beginning of the commission, we need to go back to the year 2010.
As it’s established by the State Peace and Development Council with aims to make 2010 general elections successful, it should be called Aye-Chan-Pyo Commission. It was established on March 11, 2010 in accord with Section 443 of 2008 Constitution and Section 3 of 2010 Union Election Commission Law enacted by the council.
The Union Election Commission is chaired by Thein Soe and has a membership of 17 including Myint Naing, Dr Tin Aung Aye and Aung Myint. The State Peace and Development Council allowed Deputy Chief Justice Thein Soe, Deputy Attorney General Myint Naing, Judge of the Supreme Court Dr Tin Aung Aye and Aung Myint, a member of Civil Services Board to retire on March 10, 2010.
The commission’s office was formed with a total of 200 staff members in accord with the decision made by the government’s meeting numbered 47/2010 held on December 9, 2010.
New government and new commission
The government of the ruling party “Union Solidarity and Development Party” which won a landslide victory in the 2010 election established the new commission. While it seemed a new commission, it’s formed with almost every member from the old one. So it can be said they just made a snake-skin change.
It made no significant difference as the ruling party’s chairman and the President appointed a top-ranking leader of the party as the commission’s chairman after they formed the new government. Tin Aye became the commission’s chairman on March 30, 2011. The commission under Thein Sein’s administration is no difference from the one of the SPDC. Every member of the new commission are from the old one.
Expansion of the commission’s offices
The commission was made bigger with aims to oversee political parties lawfully and to organize parliamentary elections successfully. It opened 14 regional and state offices, 67 district offices including Nay Pyi Taw, six in autonomous regions, 330 township offices.
The government’s meeting numbered 30/2012 held on August 9, 2012 decided to expand the commission’s organizational structure to a total of 2414 staff members including 594 senior officers and 1820 junior staff from previous number of 2214.
From trousers to Longyi
The commission announced an order numbered 47/2013 and dated December 3, 2013 to appoint deputy directors. Under the official letter dated November 11, 2013 from the office of Commander-in-Chief (Army)’s military appointment office, 58 majors were appointed as deputy directors starting from the morning of December 2, 2013 at nation-wide offices of the commission. They took off their trousers to wear Longyi. They were officially appointed as deputy directors on February 13, 2014 in 49 nation-wide offices of the commission, under an official announcement numbered 11/2014 of the commission.
Most of the districts where there are no retired majors appointed by the commission as deputy directors are apparently weaker areas for the ruling party’s electioneering. For example, Bahmaw and Puttao in Kachin State, Linnkeh, Kwonlon,, Loukai, Kengtung, Mineset and Minepyat are districts where there are appointed no deputy directors. It seems the commission’s such appointments may be related with the ruling party’s electioneering strategy.
At the time when the proportional representation system is more likely to be practiced in the 2015 general election, it can be reviewed that the “PR” system may be district-based as the retired majors are appointed as deputy directors. So the commission appeared to be turned into a network that can directly instruct, inform, report and supervise the districts.
It can be seen that an administering mechanism is established with trustworthy staff members in order to effectively enforce by-laws, rules and directives issued by the commission. It also indicates that a special project is under way with aims to realize well-planned and strategic objectives. So it may be right to conclude the allegations of the current steps of the commission as a strategic plan to weaken the electioneering process of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party “National League for Democracy”.
While shouting slogans about the country’s transformation from military rule to civilian rule, military officers are turning themselves into civilian ones to serve in the government and administrative machinery, including the Union Election Commission. We can deduce from the fact that such backing for retired military officers is rather likened to the type of administration and management rooted after a military coup in 1962.
Myanmar’s democracy will become fruitful only if the administration and management designed to support retired military officers in various sectors, including the Union Election Commission, can be reformed. Such type of administration and management is the root cause of dire poverty Myanmar and its people are suffering.
Calls for reconstitution of the Election Commission
In my opinion, before election in 2015, the Union Election Commission should be reconstituted with respected and unbiased people. I also think the involvement of retired military officers in the commission and its subcommittees at various levels should be reduced to a zero level. Only then, can a free and fair election be ensured.
While shouting slogans ‘Public voice is parliament’s voice and ‘Public desire is parliament’s desire, Union Parliament, Lower House, Upper House and regional parliaments should also submit proposals and raise questions about the reconstitution of the election commission and the reduction of military personnel’s participation to a zero level.
It is crucial for the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the NGOs to lay down a plan to monitor the upcoming electoral processes. In addition to the cooperation between the election observers and monitors, it also needs to make necessary preparations for monitoring every step of electoral processes across the country.
With the aim of ensuring a free and fair election and the lack of influences, the Upper House of Parliament should submit a proposal to reshuffle chairman and members of the Union Election Commission.
We can draw a conclusion that taking the post of the UEC’s chairman by a retired army general and former top leader of the Union Solidarity and Development Party is not appropriate and amounts to the acts of political daredevil.
Replacing the UEC with the highly reputed civilians would guarantee that the 2015 election would become a free and fair one. The general election held under the supervision of the new UEC would help in climbing a next-strategic-political-reform ladder. http://elevenmyanmar.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6888:dr-yan-myo-thein&catid=38:opinion&Itemid=361