Myanmar’s largest election monitoring group decries ban

A woman casts her ballot during last year’s by-elections in Yangon. Nyan Zay Htet/The Myanmar Times. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

YANGON, Aug 15, 2020, Bangkok Post. The banning of Myanmar’s largest election monitoring group will have a “huge impact” on the transparency of November’s national polls, says the organisation’s director, Bangkok Post reported.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the last election in a landslide victory five years ago and the next national poll is planned for Nov 8.

The People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (Pace) had expected to play a crucial role in a vote where coronavirus restrictions will likely mean that many international observers will not be allowed into the country.

But its director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint announced on Thursday that the group had been barred by authorities.

“It’s a very sad day,” he told AFP, adding that his organisation — which boasts more than 2,900 observers — had successfully monitored the 2015 vote, 2017 by-elections and 2019 municipal elections.

“To bar Pace has a huge impact on the transparency of the process,” he said.

The move has caused outrage with more than 450 civil society groups issuing a joint statement calling for the decision to be overturned in the name of a “free and fair” election.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) at the end of last month told Pace it would be barred from elections for “receiving assistance from international organisations without being officially registered”.

Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said his group had always been open about its funding, but argued that receiving foreign money was legal.

The government had put bureaucratic obstacles in its way to prevent it from registering, he said.

“Without Pace the elections will not be credible,” said Khin Zaw Win, director of policy advocacy group Tampadipa Institute.

He also questioned the impartiality of the UEC, whose members under Myanmar’s constitution are entirely selected by the ruling party.

“You can’t run a real respectable democracy without a reliable election commission,” he added.

The polls are expected to return the NLD party to power despite rising disillusionment among the country’s many ethnic minority groups.

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