Feature Story

Myanmar letting observers in - Preparing for the November elections 

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Preparations for the November 8 elections in Myanmar are hectic, to say the least. At stake are 1 171 seats at the Pyithu, Amyota and State and Regions Hluttaws assemblies. More than 6 000 candidates nominated from 90 parties are being scrutinized by the election sub commissions. In 2010 there were over 3 000 candidates and 40 parties taking part.

An estimated 32 million of voters will be eligible to cast their ballots at about 45 000 polling stations. Thousands of them are expected to also enlist as observers of the election.

As lead of the STEP Democracy, an initiative supported by the European Union and International IDEA is assisting the Union Election Commission (UEC) to make the November elections the most inclusive in recent history. Letting observers in is an essential part of that job.

Although it’s difficult to say how many will sign up as observers, International IDEA is getting prepared for full coverage of polling stations. Preparations have included scoping needs, consultations with electoral stakeholders, coordination with international partners such as NDI and DRI; drafting regulations, procurement; training of election officials; and so on. The UEC has recently put all that effort to good use by granting observer status to the first domestic observer organization: the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE).

We spoke to the Executive Director of PACE, Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint –Ko Sai, on this very meaningful milestone in the process.

On the success of being accredited, would you say you were satisfied with the process?
We faced a number of issues but I’d say it overall was okay.

How long did it take to get the Letter of Accreditation, how long for the badges? 
The letter took less than a week. We applied on Wednesday and received the letter by Monday. Initially, we were expected to fill out the badges ourselves. Later, the UEC decided to do it themselves (as the UEC prefers to keep control of all details). For now, we have developed a system (on Word and Excel) where we can print the names. But it is hard to say how this will be functional on the state and regional level, if they will have the facilities to accommodate this system.

When is PACE submitting the next lists of nominated observers?
We plan to submit the long-term observer (LTO) list by 25th of this month [August] and the short-term observer (STO) list by mid-September.

What are PACE’s plans for the Voter List Display?
The problem is that UEC hasn’t confirmed voter list display and it’s hard to plan. Originally, we thought the list was going to be displayed on 24th, but now it’s undecided. I tried calling them to at least get a confirmation on the date of announcement, but they were unable to provide that information. We had already conducted long-term observer training as we expected the release date to be the 24th.

What is the number on your identification card?
My card number is 11 and the organization is 1. We went through a long process of one and half years, since the creation of PACE. We do feel this is historic.