Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Security concerns delay result in Kokang region

Initial results from Laukkai township in the conflict-hit Kokang region of northeastern Shan State indicate a Union Solidarity and Development Party victory but the result is far from confirmed, electoral officials and candidates said yesterday evening.

Four seats were up for grabs – one in the Pyithu Hluttaw, one in the Amyotha Hluttaw and two in the Shan State Hluttaw – with just the USDP and Shan State Kokang Democracy Party competing.

Early on election day, one state hluttaw candidate from the SSKDP had admitted that the party had only a slim chance of winning, while USDP officials put the party’s odds at 90 percent.

Election commission officials were unable to provide figures for the votes counted so far. They said full results for Laukkai district, which also includes Konkyan township, would be delayed two or three days due to poor transport links to remote corners of the district and security concerns.

“We could run all of the polling stations as normal but the process of collecting the votes is continuing,” said U Kyaw Swar Oo, secretary of the Laukkai district election commission.

He added that only once all the votes were in the hands of the township commission with the correct documents could the result be confirmed.

The USDP was only slightly ahead of the SSKDP on advance votes counted at the township level, he said.

Due to the security concerns electoral staff – mostly teachers – posted to remote areas were forced to stay overnight at their polling stations before being collected by Tatmadaw soldiers yesterday.

“The security of the teachers assigned to polling stations is our first priority,” U Kyaw Swar Oo.

Not all polling stations were releasing the result of the count to the public, making it hard to gauge the exact status of the contest.

USDP Amyotha Hluttaw candidate U Kyaw Ni Naing said he wasn’t assuming victory.

“I don’t want to predict the result now – I’ll wait for the official announcement. I hope we can know the outcome tonight,” he told The Myanmar Times yesterday morning.

The election was held in the Kokang region despite repeated outbreaks of heavy fighting since early February, when the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army staged a series of surprise attacks.

President U Thein Sein placed the Kokang region under martial law on February 17, with judicial and administrative control handed over to the Tatmadaw.

Since then the Tatmadaw has gradually pushed the rebels back toward the China border, and now all but a handful of well-fortified mountain areas are once again under government control.

The government and Tatmadaw have been at pains to present a picture of life returning to normal, and have been promising for months that the election would go ahead in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone.

While the Union Election Commission cancelled voting in seven townships in Shan State, as well as hundreds of village tracts in other townships, because of security concerns, the Kokang region was largely spared, despite the active fighting.

U Kyaw Swar Oo said voting had only been cancelled in two village tracts – Hohaine and Shin Htan – in the self-administered zone. Tatmadaw soldiers provided security, working together with 53 newly recruited election police.