Myanmar election commission scraps this year's by-elections

Myanmar election commission scraps this year's by-elections
File image of daily life in Myanmar: A women sells betel leaves between trains, at a train station outside Yangon.

THE UNION Election Commission (UEC) is scrapping by-elections planned for later this year to fill vacant seats in Parliament, and saying that all political parties back its decision.

Commission chairman Tin Aye told a press conference in Yangon on September 7 that the by-elections had to be scrapped for three reasons, with the main one being the financial burden they would impose on the government and small political parties.

"Prior to the press conference, the UEC held a meeting with Yangon-based political parties, telling them the reasons why the by-elections won't be held. No political parties objected to the decision," Tin Aye said.

In May, Lower House MP Phyoe Min Thein of Hlegu Township asked the UEC chairman whether Myanmar plans to hold by-elections. Tin Aye replied that it did, adding that the date would be announced at least three months in advance. The by-elections were expected in November or December, after the end of the ASEAN meetings.

They would fill 35 vacant seats nationwide: 13 in the Lower House, six in the Upper House and 16 at the region and state level.

Tin Aye told the press conference that the by-elections would place the greatest financial burden on small, newly registered political parties, which are required to compete in elections at all levels of government or face the revokation of their registration. The short canvassing period was a less worrisome problem, he added.

"The new parties, registered after 2010, must compete at all levels or their registration could be revoked," Tin Aye said.

Sixty-seven political parties have registered since 2010.

Tin Aye added that the government would also need to spend more than Ks 2 billion (S$2.6 million) to hold the by-elections. At the same time, the election commission is busy preparing for the 2015 national elections.

Tun Tun Hein, a representative of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), said there was no political gain for the government in the move.

"There are reasons against holding the by-elections this year. If possible, they could be postponed to 2015. But then, it would be inconvenient for the government, as they would be too close to the general elections. There's no political gain to be reaped," Tun Tun Hein said.

Tin Aye said he met with NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on September 6 to discuss the upcoming elections and other issues.

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