Thursday, 20 July 2017

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Election Commissioner U Tha Tha Maung announced yesterday that his office will begin implementing an advanced voting system for next month’s national election, according to an official in Maungdaw.

“The election office has arranged for advanced voting by military personnel stationed along the border,” the official said.

Other efforts to institute advanced voting have been initiated by Burma’s ruling junta through an order issued on October 24 to the agriculture and land survey department in Maungdaw that requires all personnel to vote in advance, according to an election watchdog group.

“It is a secret plan by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to get more votes on November 7 as they lose more and more support among local residents,” the group said.

Authorities in Maungdaw previously announced that they would set up polling stations to accommodate early voting on November 6 for elderly residents, prison inmates and women.

The election commission has now decided to expand the early voting plan in Maungdaw, the Maungdaw official said.

“Aung Zaw Win (a USDP candidate) secretly met the election commissioner to arrange for advanced voting that will benefit the USDP,” said a resident of Maungdaw, though there has been no confirmation of the meeting.

Representatives of the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD) said they were not aware of any additional measures for advanced voting except for the November 6 plan.

Two other parties contesting the elections in northern Arakan, the National Development and Peace Party (NDPP) and the National Unity Party (NUP) have not responded to news of the advanced voting system.

The NDPP has largely been dismissed as a proxy party for the USDP, according to the watchdog group, who added that the NUP has done little campaigning in the area.

“The NUP has already organized the Rakhine community to support them. It is an old party dating back to 1990, so it has its own program. All candidates are from the Rakhine community, with the exception of one Muslim candidate, Htun Maung,” the watchdog group said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Sub Inspector Shwe Maung of the Maungdaw police has organized a search for suspects in the destruction of a USDP campaign billboard, one of several acts of vandalism in the last few weeks against campaign billboards.

“It was premeditated by opposition groups to harass the NDPD. So far, no arrests have been made,” said an elder from Maungdaw.

The watchdog group said that Assistant Sub Inspector Shwe Maung was instructed to harass and disturb the supporters and members of NDPD by the chairman of district Peace and Development Council with USDP candidate Aung Zaw Win.