The Union Election Commission (UEC) has rejected a request from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic parties to double the length of time parties will have to campaign for Burma’s crucial 2015 elections.
The official election regulations will continue to restrict campaigning to 30 days before the polls, according to an election official, although exceptions may be made in remote states where the logistics of campaigning are expected to be difficult.
The UEC met on Wednesday with representatives of the NLD—Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party—and five ethnic parties, which proposed amendments to the election rules laid out by the commission last month.
Thaung Hlaing, a director at the UEC, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the parties’ proposal to allow 60 days of campaigning before voting day would not be adopted.
“Our chairman has discussed it,” said Thaung Hlaing, referring to the UEC’s chair, Tin Aye, a former military official who was elected as a lawmaker for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) before stepping down to head the supposedly impartial commission.
“The NLD and the ethnic parties asked to extend the date to 60 days but we have set it out to international standards.”
Thaung Hlaing added that candidates in states like Chin or Arakan, where travel is difficult, can ask for more time to campaign.
“We don’t want the political parties to have to spend more [money] due to a long campaign period. It will also prevent any unnecessary problems which might occur amongst rival parties,” he said in explanation of the decision.
The regulations will govern the 2015 parliamentary election, which is expected to be the first national vote the NLD has contested since Burma moved to a nominally democratic form of government. The rules will also decide how by-elections expected late this year are conducted. The UEC says it will announce the date of those elections three months before the polling day.
Tun Tun Hein, an NLD executive committee member, said the party would follow the commission’s decision.
Ten political parties, including the NLD, suggested amendments to the electoral guidelines published by the UEC in July. On Wednesday, only six parties joined the meeting—the Zomi Democratic Party, the Human Rights and Democracy Party, the Mon National Party, the Wa National Unity Party, the Kaman National Progressive Party and the NLD.
Tun Tun Hein said the UEC still had to clarify regulations on parties meeting with the media; the definitions of campaigning and rallying; and the time campaigning can begin.
“The commission said an unclear media section has been removed in their amended guideline,” said Htun Htun Hein.
He said that some proposals made by opposition parties had been agreed by the UEC, and that Chairman Tin Aye had promised elections would be free and fair.
“He [Tin Aye] said: ‘Don’t look just back to the 2010 experience, but wait for the 2014 by-election,’” said Tun Tun Hein.
May Sitt Paing contributed to this report.