Party chair U Than Htay has challenged the fairness of Sunday’s election and urged the public to send in evidence of fraud, while some USDP candidates are also refusing to sign off on the results.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party is challenging the result of Sunday’s general election, claiming the election was unfair and indicating its candidates would submit formal complaints to the Union Election Commission.
Although the UEC is still certifying results, it is already clear that the National League for Democracy won the election in a landslide and may even outdo its 2015 victory.
The USDP suffered a humiliating defeat in the November 8 vote, ceding most of its remaining seats in the Bamar-majority regions to the NLD and losing comprehensively in most contests.
It doesn’t appear to be taking the loss well.
In a video posted to its Facebook page this afternoon, party chair U Than Htay claimed the election had been unfairly conducted and urged the public to send in evidence of “fraud” to the USDP so it could mount legal challenges.
Than Htay said the party is going to “try to make things right legally”, suggesting the party will formally object to the outcome.
It’s not clear exactly what he meant, but candidates are able to file objections to the result of individual races within 45 days of their certification. These objections are heard by UEC-appointed tribunals, which after hearing evidence have the power to deny elected lawmakers their seats and hand them to the runners-up in the contest.
Tribunal decisions cannot be appealed to an independent court, and require complainants to pay a K500,000 filing fee. The process is also slow. Forty-four tribunal cases were heard after the 2015 general election, but only two were concluded by the time the new government was formed in late March 2016 and a new UEC was appointed.
NLD spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt told Frontier that if the USDP believes the election was not free and fair, it should gather evidence, submit it to the UEC and request another election.
“There are legal procedures for that,” he said. “Those who refuse to accept the results will be responsible for the consequences.”
The USDP also appears to have instructed its candidates not to confirm the results of their races, and some party officials told Frontier they intend to file objections to the election commission.
Last night a photo of a statement from the Union Solidarity and Development Party headquarters in Nay Pyi Taw began circulating on Facebook, in which it instructed its candidates not to sign what is known as a Form 19, which contains the tabulated results of a constituency.
Candidates are supposed to sign the form with the relevant township election sub-commission to confirm the results of the race they participated in.
Refusing to sign will have little effect on the election outcome, as a signature is not required from all candidates for the township sub-commissions to submit a Form 19 to higher levels of the UEC for certification.
However, it could precipitate an avalanche of cases submitted to UEC tribunals.
The letter, which is purportedly signed on behalf of the USDP general secretary and addressed to the chairs and vice chairs of state and region party branches, instructs them to also file objections to the result.
Frontier has so far been unable to reach the USDP headquarters for comment, but one region-level party official and two candidates told Frontier the instruction is real. DVB has also quoted a party spokesperson as confirming the letter is real.
Regardless, several USDP candidates who lost their seats said they have refused to sign Form 19, including U Thaung Aye from Pyawbwe in Mandalay Region.
“We got the instruction and we’re not signing,” said the Pyithu Hluttaw incumbent in Pyawbwe. “The reason I’m not signing is because there were errors on the voter lists.”
He sounded furious at the outcome, and seemed to be in disbelief at having lost his seat.
“The result is the reverse” of what it should be, he suggested. “Pyawbwe is a USDP stronghold. We are investigating whether [the outcome] is really the people’s choice or a fraud.”
Pyawbwe is one of four townships in southern Mandalay Region that were considered a USDP stronghold – they are referred to as pyi khaing phyo myo lay myo (“the four USDP towns”) – but were all won by the NLD on November 8.
In Meiktila, the USDP’s candidates have also not yet signed Form 19, sub-commission officials confirmed. “Whether or not they come and sign is a reflection on the candidate’s reputation but has no effect on the outcome,” said Dr Win Soe Oo, a local NLD official.
Speaking to Frontier before the USDP letter began circulating, U Kyaw Myint, the USDP candidate for the Yamethin-2 seat in the regional hluttaw, said he did not believe the USDP legitimately lost in the townships and doubts the credibility of the election.
“I won’t accept the result, but I don’t intend to file a complaint with the [election] commission. I submitted an account of the situation to my party’s central committee,” he said.
The USDP’s candidate for Pyawbwe-2 in the regional hluttaw, U Myint Soe, said he believes the results are illegitimate there as well, and that he would not sign Form 19. He said the NLD abused its power as the ruling party to bribe constituents with government services.
“It’s not fair. [As the election neared] the [NLD] government repaired the roads and developed the nearby villages, and they donated to a monastery. We [USDP candidates in Pyawbwe] will file complaints to the UEC,” he said.
In Kengtung and Tachileik in eastern Shan State, where the NLD has also won all seats, USDP candidates have refused to sign and have also sent letters to the district election sub-commissions saying they don’t accept the result. They are also demanding another election be held, arguing that the vote on November 8 was “unfair”, Tachileik District party chair U Bo San and Shan State party secretary Sai Kyaw Hla both confirmed.
They said their complaints focus on advance votes and the number of votes received, alleging that in some cases the number of votes exceeded eligible voters.
U Lin Aung Aung, a Yangon Region Hluttaw candidate for Shwepyithar, said he would not sign until he received an instruction from the party to do so.
The USDP candidate added that he was planning to file an objection to the result due to irregularities at some polling stations, but did not provide further details.
Meanwhile, in northern Shan State, U Sai Kyu, who lost the Shan State Hluttaw seat of Lashio-1, also said he would not sign the form, citing instructions from headquarters.
In Magway Region, U Soe Htut Oo, secretary of the regional election sub-commission, said USDP candidates were refusing to sign in some townships. “They said they had objections,” he said, declining to comment further.
The party has called a press conference for 2pm tomorrow in Yangon, but has not said what it will discuss.
Election sub-commission officials said the refusal to sign was effectively meaningless because candidate signatures are not required for results to be certified, and because representatives of the USDP candidates had already signed off on individual polling station results contained on what’s known as a Form 16.
“It won’t have any effect on confirming or releasing results,” said U Kyaw Taung, chair of the East Hlaing Tharyar election sub-commission in Yangon. “The results submitted to township election sub-commission are already approved by party representatives at each polling station.”
Dr Myat Thit, chair of the Chan Aye Thar Zan Township sub-commission in Mandalay Region, said that if candidates objected to the conduct of the election, it should have instructed their representatives not to sign Form 16 at polling stations.
“They haven’t done that so we’ll just process the result,” he said. “Candidates from other parties are coming to sign.” – Reporting by Pyae Sone Aung, Ei Ei Toe Lwin, Ye Mon, Hein Thar, Naw Betty Han, Lun Min Mang, Soe Moe and Nay Aung