FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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In Yangon, Stefan Krause, email@example.com
Read the Final Report in English (PDF)
Read the Final Report in Burmese (PDF)
Read the Press Release in Burmese (PDF)
YANGON, MYANMAR — The Carter Center today released the final report of its assessment of the Nov. 8, 2015, general elections in Myanmar.
In it, the Center commends the people of Myanmar for their remarkable commitment to the democratic process following decades of authoritarian rule, which proved crucial in counterbalancing the considerable structural impediments to fully democratic elections. The report notes the professionalism of the election administration, in particular the efforts of the Union Election Commission to increase the transparency and overall credibility of elections in Myanmar. It also highlights the important role played by civil society and political parties in conducting voter education and electoral observation, and in fostering a peaceful election process and handover of power.
The report also identifies several weaknesses in the conduct of the elections and includes recommendations to bring future elections into compliance with international democratic standards. The constitution should be a key focus of reform efforts, as it has provisions that give excessive power to the military, restrict political rights, and do not provide for full equality among all citizens.
Other recommendations include improving the accuracy of voter lists; establishing transparency in all steps of the election process, including the tabulation and reporting of results; amending electoral laws to provide more regulation of the election process; increasing women’s participation; ensuring a fair citizenship verification process for former temporary registration card holders; and making the out-of-constituency advance voting process observable.
Despite flaws in the election process, Myanmar appears to be on a positive trajectory in the post-election period toward a peaceful, democratic transition. The Carter Center encourages the new government and the recently appointed Union Election Commission to continue the democratic and electoral reform process so that a fully democratic parliament with equal participation of all the people of Myanmar will be elected in the general elections due in 2020. The Carter Center also encourages Myanmar to sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights documents to signify its commitment to the rights of its people. The Carter Center offers its continued support for electoral reform, the consolidation of democratic governance, and the peace process.
Its key recommendations include:
- Constitution: Amend the constitution so that all members of at least one house of the Union parliament are elected by direct vote. Reserved seats for military appointees should be phased out. The appointment mechanism for the election management body should be reviewed to ensure that it guarantees independence and impartiality. Constituencies should have relatively equal numbers of residents or registered voters. Unreasonable restrictions on the right to vote should be removed. Provisions on candidate eligibility should be amended to end discrimination based on citizenship or other undue restrictions. Union Election Commission decisions should be able to be appealed to a judicial authority. The prohibition of anyone with a parent, spouse, or child with foreign citizenship from becoming president should be reconsidered.
- Election Administration. Amend election laws to regulate some parts of the electoral process that are currently within the discretion of the election commission. To ensure balanced, impartial election administration at all levels, new procedures for appointment of subcommission members should be devised to ensure that the composition of the election subcommissions is gender-balanced and representative of the ethnic diversity of Myanmar. Subcommissions should have more independence from the General Administration Department.
- Voter Registration. Ensure that the new digital voter register is accurately maintained. To this end, the Union Election Commission should update the voter register at regular intervals, using its own data as well as information provided by other government agencies. There should be adequate staffing at all levels to support voter list operations.
- Citizenship. Bring legislation affecting citizenship in line with international standards. The legal status of habitual residents of Myanmar, especially former temporary registration certificate holders, should be resolved, and equal access to citizenship ensured through a timely, non-discriminatory, and transparent process.
- Election Observation. Amend election laws to provide for electoral observation. All advance voting, including the casting of ballots, should be fully open to observation by accredited observers and party/candidate agents.
- Political Rights. Guarantee that the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression enshrined in the constitution exist in practice. Candidates and political parties should be permitted to campaign without undue limitations or burdensome requirements for prior approval. No prior approval of the content of speeches should be required for contestants to use free media time.
- Campaign Finance. Enhance the effectiveness of campaign-finance regulations through the introduction of a monitoring mechanism, regulation of spending by political parties and candidates in the pre-campaign period, limits on the size of individual donations, disclosure of donors who contribute amounts above a certain threshold, the publication of campaign-finance reports, and introduction of a range of sanctions for violations of campaign-finance regulations.
The full report and list of recommendations is here: English (PDF) | Burmese (PDF)
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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.