As conflict grows in Paletwa Township in southern Chin State, many fear that voting will be suspended in the beleaguered township during the 2020 general elections. With five constituencies, Paletwa Township has the largest population of the nine townships in Chin State.
Saw Mya, chair of Khumi Affairs Coordination Committee (KACC), said if there isn’t polling in Paletwa, it will be a huge loss.
“If the election isn’t held in Paletwa, there will be no parliamentarians representing Paletwa and our township won’t get a development fund,” he says, explaining there won’t be any money to fund the many small projects. In addition, there will be no representation in Parliament to voice the concerns and needs of the township.
”An election is essential for the country,” says Saw Mya, and why he is pushing for the government to allow it, excluding areas where active conflict is taking place. He wants the election commission to open more polling stations and allow advance voting.
Salai David Van Bawi, a political analyst and coordinator of the Danish Institute of Party and Democracy’s youth program, says if voting isn’t allowed in Paletwa Township it will diminish ”democratic values” because no-one in the township will be represented. “People will lose their rights. We therefore urge the Union Election Commission to allow elections in Paletwa. We want the Burma Army and AA (Arakan Army) to stop fighting and start political dialogue.” Both armed groups “need to take into account the safety of everyone during an election.”
Lin Kyaw, secretary of the Chin State Election Commission, says they are preparing for voting in Paletwa Township by updating voters’ lists and getting the materials needed for polling stations. Some has already arrived in Sittwe and they’re discussing how to bring it to the township. He says there will be more polling stations than during the 2015 election. “Security forces” will ensure a safe election.
According to the Chin State Election Commission, there are over 340,000 eligible voters from 39 constituencies in nine townships in Chin State. There are 18 seats in the Chin State Parliament; 9 for the House of Representatives and 12 for the House of National Assembly.