YANGON — The Carter Center congratulates the people of Myanmar for participating in important by-elections on April 1. The Center did not directly observe the elections, but supported the observation efforts of local partner Election Education and Observation Partners (EEOP).
In its post-election preliminary statement, EEOP reported that the election-day process was conducted without major problems. Observers assessed the opening, voting, and closing and counting process as overwhelmingly positive, although they noted some problems, mostly of a procedural nature.
Prior to the election, EEOP reported that the campaign environment was peaceful and that contestants could campaign freely. Cases of misuse of administrative resources and of vote-buying were rare. EEOP noted that the organization of the elections was somewhat improved and that voters’ confidence in the Union Election Commission (UEC) had increased significantly. Among voters interviewed for a survey, almost one-half had not checked to see if their names were on the voter list. The large majority of those who had checked said they had found their names on the list.
While Myanmar’s electoral legal framework remains largely unchanged, with only two minor amendments adopted since the 2015 elections, the UEC took steps to improve certain aspects of the election process that did not require legislative changes. Some of these steps address recommendations The Carter Center made in its final report on the 2015 general elections. For example, the UEC published an electoral calendar with key dates; introduced a new system to improve internal communication with its sub-commissions; expanded and intensified the training of sub-commission members; increased voter-education efforts; streamlined observer accreditation procedures; and provided standardized information kits to all stakeholders.
The Carter Center welcomes in particular the new rules for determining the validity of ballots stamped more than once for the same candidate; this procedural change was aimed at ensuring that the will of voters was accurately reflected in the results and at reducing the share of invalid ballots (which was a high 6.25 percent in 2015). In Kyethi and Monghsu townships in Shan State, where elections were cancelled in 2015 for security reasons, voters were for the first time able to express their will in democratic elections.
The Carter Center did not seek accreditation to observe the by-elections. Instead, since October 2016, the Center has been supporting EEOP, a network of 14 regional civil society organizations from different parts of Myanmar, and its secretariat, which is held by the New Myanmar Foundation (NMF). The Center provided technical assistance in the form of trainings, direct advisory support through on-site experts, and the use of ELMO, its open-source software for reporting on and analyzing elections. EEOP deployed over 200 observers, including 19 long-term observers. The Carter Center is grateful for the generous support of the embassy of Denmark in Myanmar, which enabled it to assist EEOP/NMF.
The Carter Center has been engaged in Myanmar since 2012. It established an office in Yangon in 2013 and supported Myanmar’s democratic transition by conducting long-term, field-based observation from December 2014 through July 2015. In August 2015, The Center launched an election observation mission for the November 2015 general elections. The Carter Center issued its final report on the 2015 general elections in August 2016.
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