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UEC U-Turn on Select Few Candidates Fails to Address Election Credibility Gap in Myanmar

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights  •  September 28, 2015

JAKARTA, 28 September 2015 – Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia today welcomed the decision of Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) to reinstate the candidacies of 11 previously disqualified Muslim politicians, but said the reversal was far from enough to recover international confidence in the upcoming general election.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) warned that the credibility of the vote continues to be undermined by the rejection of over 100 other candidates and the denial of suffrage to hundreds of thousands of individuals nationwide.

“This seems more like a token effort to appease international observers, rather than a genuine attempt to address the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people based on their religion and ethnicity,” said Charles Santiago, APHR Chairperson and Malaysian MP.

“Dozens of other candidates who were disqualified on exactly the same tenuous grounds remain barred from standing for election. We’d be interested to see how the UEC decided that some were worthy of their review while others weren’t.”

According to press reports, the UEC ruled on 19 September that 11 of the 124 candidates that had been disqualified from participation in the 8 November election were now able to run for office.

Among those still disqualified is U Shwe Maung, an ethnic Rohingya MP who was elected in 2010 representing Buthidaung Township in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Shwe Maung was among a delegation of parliamentarians from Southeast Asia that traveled to the United Nations in New York and to Washington, DC, earlier this month to discuss concerns related to the upcoming elections in Myanmar. The delegation met with UN officials and U.S. policymakers and raised the issues of candidate rejections and widespread disenfranchisement, which undermine the idea that election preparations are proceeding in an inclusive and credible manner.

“What we’re seeing here is the continued appeasement of ultra-nationalists by the Myanmar authorities. This is a dangerous game, and anyone who believes that the next parliament will be motivated to confront these extremists without serious international pressure should think again,” Shwe Maung said.

The decision to allow a limited number of previously disqualified candidates to run also does nothing to address the fact that hundreds of thousands have been denied the right to vote, APHR said. These individuals, many of whom are ethnic Rohingya, were removed from the voter rolls earlier this year despite the fact that they were eligible to vote in previous contests, including the last general election in 2010.

“How can we say the election is in any way inclusive when you’ve had such mass disenfranchisement? The credibility of the elections has already been severely damaged before a single vote has even been cast,” Shwe Maung added.

APHR called on the UEC to conduct a fairer and more transparent candidate vetting and appeal process and to guarantee that no candidates are denied the ability to participate based on their religion or ethnicity. Parliamentarians also urged authorities in Myanmar to ensure that all voters are able to cast ballots this November if they choose.

Phone: +66 (0) 81 643 0009
Email: info@aseanmp.org

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This post is in: Press Release

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