Myanmar Election Body Rejects Muslim Parliamentary Candidates

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myanmar-election-poster-naypyidaw-aug14-2015.jpg A man stands beside election posters at the Zabuthiri district election commission office in Naypyidaw, Aug. 14, 2015.

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) on Tuesday rejected all but one candidate from an Islamic party based on citizenship requirements before general elections in November in a move that could lead to the party’s disbandment, the organization’s political leader said.

The commission rejected the applications of 17 of 18 candidates who had filed to run for parliamentary seats as members of the Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), Kyaw Min (a) Mahmood Shomshul Anwarul Haque, the party’s chairman, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Eleven of the rejected candidates are from Rakhine state, and the six others are from the Yangon division, he said, leaving only one party candidate to stand in the elections.

“The rejection notice did not mention detailed reasons behind the decision, but just said the candidates were rejected for violations based on laws and regulations,” he said.

The DHRP is preparing to appeal to the UEC within seven days, although it has not filed yet, said Kyaw Min, a Rohingya candidate who himself was rejected, although he was a member of the parliament elected in 1990 elections.  

If the UEC rejects the party’s appeal, the DHRP, which was founded by Muslim politicians and activists, would be deregistered under a provision in the country’s Political Parties Registration Law that requires a party to put forth at least three candidates or face disbandment.

By law, the DHRP cannot replace the rejected candidates, Kyaw Min said.

“If rejected, our party will be forced to disband due to [an insufficient] required number of candidates needed to survive after the elections,” he said.

Terms of disqualification

So far, the UEC commission has rejected nearly 50 candidates in total—24 candidates from Rakhine state, including the ones from the DHRP, and 25 from the Yangon division.

The candidates rejected in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw district, where the majority of people are Muslim Rohingya, were disqualified based on two sections of the election law — section 8(e) which bars people from running for office if their parents were not Myanmar citizens at the time of their birth, and section 10(e) which requires candidates to have lived in the country for the past consecutive 10 years, according to local media reports.

All the candidates from Rakhine state are Rohingya, whom the Myanmar government views as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and refers to them as “Bengalis,” although many have lived there for generations.

Kyaw Min, however, pointed out that all the rejected DHRP candidates have citizenship cards or national registration cards.

“The rejection is based not on law; they don’t want to give us [political] space,” said Kyaw Min. “If it’s in the law, they why could we stand in the past? We could stand in the 1990 elections as well as the 2010 elections.”

“We are discouraged by the decision, and we don’t see this is a good sign,” he said. “I think the words like ‘all-inclusiveness’ and ‘transparency’ are not that right here in this case.”

NLD voices disagreement

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party has called the UEC’s rejection of candidates based on the election law’s citizenship requirements “unconstitutional.”

“It is not constitutional [because] according to the constitution, every citizen has equal rights,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win told RFA Tuesday after political party leaders met with UEC members in Yangon. “The rejection of candidates based on the citizenship of their parents is in my opinion an infringement upon the equal rights of citizens.”

One of the NLD’s own candidates, Tun Min Soe who had planned to run in Rakhine state, was rejected because he lived in Bangladesh in 2006, according to a report in The Myanmar Times.

Last week, officials rejected an application from Shwe Maung, a Rohingya lawmaker from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), to run for reelection because his parents were not citizens when he was born. He was planning to run as an independent candidate in the Nov. 8 elections.

Shwe Maung, who denies that his parents were not citizens, tried to appeal the decision on Tuesday before the Rakhine state election subcommission in Sittwe, but was further disqualified, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy. He plans to appeal to election commission in Naypyidaw.

Reported by Shwe Yi Myintzu, Khin Khin Ei, Kyaw Thu and Nay Rein Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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