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The ruling Union Solidarity and Democracy Party (USDP) has massively outstripped opposition parties when it comes to money spent on luring voters, according to a leading Burma-based election watchdog.
The People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) has run the rule over the conduct of major parties during the campaign period, which has continued over the past six weeks in the lead-up to the country’s 8 November general election.
At a press conference on Tuesday at the Park Royal Hotel in Rangoon, PACE executive director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said the results of the survey were based on findings in more than 2,600 interviews with election candidates in 129 townships across Burma, and the monitoring of more than 1,600 campaign rallies.
He noted that the results were preliminary findings and did not provide details of the amounts or estimated amounts of spending involved.
“In terms of [incentives] – not only cash, but also material such as clothing, food and small gifts – we would like to highlight that the USDP has distributed these more than other parties,” said PACE executive director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint.
Many USDP candidates have campaigned across the country on a platform of local investment and development, with several dipping into personal funds to woo voters. Khin Shwe, a USDP candidate for the Upper House seat of Constituency-9*, told crowds last month to consider the individual contributions made by party members.
“As for the [USDP], we not only raise development issues in the parliament but are also providing help to locals at our own financial expense so rural areas such as yours should consider the individual that is running,” he told locals in the rural southern Rangoon area of Kawhmu last month.
“If you are considering your vote based on which party a candidate belongs to, then consider which individual will see to your needs.” He told constituents. Khin Shwe has amassed a vast personal fortune through ownership of construction and telecommunications conglomerate Zaykabar.
PACE has not yet published the full results of their survey, but released a press statement on Tuesday which also pointed to conclusions on the role of race and religion in the campaign period, as well as inflammatory remarks made at campaign rallies. The watchdog made a positive overall judgement of Burma’s election campaign period so far, stating that:
“Of rallies observed, 93 percent of candidates made no personal or inciting comments about another candidate. At 98 percent of rallies observed, no speaker made any comment about a group or person. However, at 2 percent of rallies observed, inciting remarks were made about race, religion and/or gender.”
PACE will take no further action in regards to their findings, but says it will present its information on the use of voter incentives and reference to race and religion in political campaigns to the Union Election Commission and individual parties.
PACE’s Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint made an added observation in reference to the star power of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who has completely dominated her National League for Democracy party’s campaign thus far.
“We also monitored who else from political parties was involved in the campaigns other than the candidates, and found that while every other party has their candidates campaigning, the National League for Democracy has lesser number of campaigns where the candidates are themselves the focus,” he noted.
*Constituency-9 includes Tontay, Kungyangon and Kawhmu townships. This year, the seat has been expanded to include Seikgyi-Kanaungto, Dala and Coco Island townships.
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