Myanmar’s election receives mixed review from Carter Center observers

The people of Myanmar should be commended for the “pride and enthusiasm” with which they exercised their political rights in last Sunday’s election, the Carter Center said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that this popular surge was a necessary counterbalance to “the considerable structural impediments to fully democratic elections.”

The Atlanta-based Carter Center, a non-profit founded in 1982 by former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, conducted “long-term observation” in Myanmar since December 2014 before switching focus to an election-monitoring role in August this year.

“The decision to open up the process to international observers signals a willingness on the side of the government and the union election commission to be more transparent. But serious flaws in the constitutional and human rights framework remain. Many people were excluded from the process. Despite these flaws Myanmar is firmly on the to democracy,” said former Irish President Mary Robinson, who led the Carter Center mission along with with Jason Carter, the chairman of the Centre’s board of trustees, and Bojray Pokharel, the former chairman of Nepal’s election commission.

The Carter Center mission praised the steps the government has taken to open up political space since 2010 that allowed political parties to agree on a “minimally acceptable basis for participation” in the political process. But Myanmar’s democratic transition remains “incomplete,” the centre said, adding that “additional democratic advances are required to be fully consistent with broadly recognised international standards for democratic elections and governance,” particularly the constitutional framework that enshrines the role of the military in political life.

The mission largely praised how the Union Election Commission handled the polls but noted that the voter lists were a “major point of contention” before the election, and that “arbitrary and discriminatory practices” in candidate registration largely targeting Muslims needed to be addressed.

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The centre also expressed worry about the veracity and transparency of out-of-constituency advance votes, widely believed to have been used by the military-derived Union Solidarity and Development Party in 2010 to ensure their victory in that year’s polls. Its observers did not observe advance ballots cast by the military or other security forces before the election. “The lack of access and opacity of this aspect of the balloting process is of particular concern, especially given the large number of out-of-constituency votes in some areas,” the statement said.

The Carter Center’s 62 observers visited 245 polling stations in all states and regions on election day.

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