Yangon gearing up for March 31 municipal election

The Yangon Region Election Commission will announce on Monday the candidates qualified to run for election to the City Development Committee (YCDC) on March 31.

Since the new government took power in April 2016, the YCDC has had only five committee members, including the committee chair (mayor) and secretary, appointed by the government.

On March 31, people will vote for another six members as stipulated in the new YCDC Law.

People will also elect township development committee members.

Observers said that according to the law, the township city development committee members have little power.

U Kyaw Kyaw Naing, an engineer from Mayangone township, said it is standard practice in big cities such as Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw for the regional development minister to also take the position of mayor, even though it is not required by law.

Civil society groups and observers hope that the deputy mayor will act as a check on the power of the mayor, he said.

According to the new law, every candidate should be given a fair chance in the election, said U Khin Hlaing, a former YCDC member who is running again in constituency 3 Zaw Ti Ka.

“If someone does not belong to a party, they have to do it alone, while party members can use the party’s image and money, so how can this election be fair?” he asked.

Among those who are running for election are former YCDC members, business people, famous artists and members of political parties.

“We need to elect representatives who can carry out municipal affairs honestly. This is the duty of voters,” said Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, founder of Yangon Watch.

She frowned upon allowing members of political parties to be candidates in the election.

In other countries, powerful political parties contest in local elections to find out how many supporters they have, so it is a tradition for them, but Myanmar’s political parties should not compete in local elections, she said.

“In Myanmar, there are not many strong political parties,” Daw Nyo Nyo Thin said. “People should vote only for those who will do their best for the people, whether they are independents or party members,” she said.

Ma Htet Htet Tun, a former beauty queen, is perhaps one of the most recognisable faces among those running. She told the media that she hopes to win the deputy mayor position.

“She has the right to contest the post, but honestly speaking, a person like her is not needed in the YCDC. There may be some who want her, but in my opinion she is not needed,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Naing.

Most election observers agreed that for many years, there have been people on the YCDC with conflicts of interest, so it is crucial to prevent this kind of person from running for election to the committee.

More potential candidates in this year’s election seem to lack integrity and seem more interested in protecting and promoting their own interests, Daw Nyo Nyo Thin said.

“Only those with a thorough knowledge of municipal works who will work for the public interest should be elected,” she said.

It is very important that a committee member take responsibility and accountability for the YCDC’s work, U Khin Hlaing said.

“Voters need to elect committee members who have leadership qualifications,” he said.

“Building roads and bridges and collecting garbage are not the duties of committee members. They must be able to lead those who do the works,” U Khin Hlaing said.

He said the election directly concerns city-dwellers, so it is very important that they vote wisely.

Source: Myanmar Times

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