Friday, August 18, 2017

Crowd cheers vote count in Mandalay after fears of rigging

To cheers and boos from the watching public, electoral officials in a Mandalay Region township are counting votes one by one in public. The unusual counting method was adopted to allay fears that unqualified voters had been trucked in to rig the result.

More than 300 people gathered outside polling station 5 in Maha Aung Myay constituency after between 100 and 180 people arrived in several truckloads, prompting suspicions that the voters were not residents of the town.

Last week, NLD observers complained that their door-to-door survey of the constituency had found only 8725 voters – 5248 fewer than the 13,973 names on the voters’ list.

In response to the angry public response, after the close of polling, local election officials decided to count the votes out loud, with the crowd acting as an audience of enthusiastic observers. They cheered every vote counted for NLD and groaned or booed USDP ballots.

U Hla Win, a local observer who was in the station when the incident occurred, said six trucks of 30 people each arrived between 12 and 1 pm. Two truckloads completed the voting process before local residents alerted officials.

“I had never seen them before,” he said. “I didn't know their faces.”

Though it seems many of the “extra” voters did cast their votes, it is not clear if their names were on the voter list or not.

Many others, apparently alarmed by the strong reaction, slipped away without voting, said U Sai Kyaw Zaw, the NLD candidate for the Shan ethnic minister position.

By the time the police arrived, most of the men brought by truck had fled, leaving only the women to explain their status. According to an NLD representative, one of the women started crying and said she could not explain anything.

It was revealed that the trucks contained workers from the Myint Nge toll booth, about six miles north of Mandalay.

A small military presence arrived in the area shortly after, with four to five armed soldiers loitering a block away and two unarmed soldiers observing the crowd from a parked fire truck.

The Mandalay Region election commission is investigating and the owner of the toll booth, U Min Min Tun, is expected to meet with officials tonight.