Off-Base Army Polling Stations Increases Transparency, Political Parties Say

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Political parties contesting the 2020 election support new election regulations requiring members of the nation’s armed forces to cast ballots at polling stations off military bases.

“Soldiers will vote at polling stations outside army compounds, and we can keep count of the exact numbers of voters. This means there will be transparency and credibility, and we welcome this,” Sai Lek, general secretary of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), told SHAN.

Both Burma Army soldiers and their family will be required to vote in public spaces on election day. According to the Shan State Election Commission, if the army base is located far from a ward or village, an additional polling station accessible to the base will be built. “There won’t be polling stations on army bases in Shan State,” said Htin Kyaw, chair of Shan State Election Commission.

During the 2010 and 2015 elections, soldiers could cast their votes on their bases, leading to criticism by civil society organizations.

Khun Maung Thaung, chair of the Ethnic Affairs and Peace Implementation Committee, said making the army vote at polling stations in the public sphere will create more openness.

On July 31, the Union Election Commission announced the decision despite that Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson for Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team, told media outlets on July 25 they couldn’t move polling stations off army bases.

The Shan State Election Commission said they would follow through with it and whether the soldiers and their family members came to vote was up to them.

Shan State has the most army bases in the country. There will be 632 polling stations in Burma on election day on November 8.

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