Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bill seeks 9-month term limit for sub-commissions

The Union Election Commission has introduced a budget-saving bill that would reduce sub-commissions’ terms from five years to just nine months, UEC members confirmed yesterday.

U Tin Tun, a UEC member, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the commission’s chair submitted draft amendments to the law governing the election body on December 6.

He did not wish to divulge specifics about the draft changes, however.

“The Upper House has not yet discussed the draft laws. The submitted draft may change after the Amyotha Hluttaw discussion,” he said

Commission member U Win Ko told the Pyithu Hluttaw last year that monthly salary costs for various district- and township-level sub-commission personnel come out to around K288.2 million a month, or K3.458 billion (US$2.64 million) calculated annually.

U Aung Kyi Nyunt, chair of the Amyotha Hluttaw bill committee, said yesterday that members were divided on the draft, especially on the change of term limit.

“The bill mentioned that [the sub-commission officials] would work six months before the election and three months after the election,” he said.

Under the revised law, the Union-level Election Commission members would continue to serve five-year terms and would be responsible for handling any party disputes that emerged between election cycles, as well as overseeing private donations to political parties.

When asked about the proposed term changes, CSOs appeared to support the change. Some suggested it would have no bearing on the sub-commissions’ central task, collecting the voter list, as they said the rolls could be compiled in the six-month run-up to an election.

U Kyaw Zaw, an administrator at the New Myanmar Foundation, raised concerns that sub-commissions may need lengthier post-election terms in order to solve any difficult election complaints. Issues from the 2015 general election continue to be addressed, most recently with a USDP MP kicked out of his seat last month following an outstanding complaint.

There is no fixed time period for tribunals to wrap up complaints. The UEC said as of mid-November 39 complaints had been addressed; there were nearly 60 filed in Yangon alone.

The election monitors with the US-based Carter Center had raised concerns that with the central tribunal located in Nay Pyi Taw, it could create a hardship for people from remote areas wishing to pursue complaints.

U Kyaw Zaw suggested that the draft law include caveats for situations where the sub-commissions may need to be reconvened, or carry out their terms for longer than nine months.

“I think that the law should go into more detail such as including provisions for extending the terms if the sub-commission has to solve complaints after the election,” he said.

Sao Tha Oo, vice chair of Federal Union Party, agreed.

“After the 2015 election, there were so many complaints for the sub-commissions to solve ... So [the terms] should not be limited to three months,” he said.

Myanmar’s next general election will be held in 2020, with a by-election slated for April 1, 2017.