Friday, September 22, 2017

Outcry over UMFCCI 'sham' election

Businessman U Win Aung has retained his position as the head of the nation’s peak business body in an election that some members are calling a sham.

The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) held tis first “democratic” elections at its headquarters on June 15.

However, the vote was marred by a computer failure and allegations that election had been set up so that incumbent executive committee (EC) members would be returned.

U Kyaw San, the secretary of the commission that organised the vote, said that 199 members had self-nominated for EC posts, of whom 69 had been elected for three-year terms. Another 69 spots on the EC were filled by representatives of UMFCCI-affiliated associations and federations.

The election replaced a system where senior members were handpicked by the Minister for Commerce.

There are 896 members who are eligible to vote and around 600 of them attended the election. It is a good result,” he said.

The votes were to be counted electronically so that the result would be known “truly and timely”, U Kyaw San said. However, a computer glitch meant they had to be recounted by hand, which meant the election did not finish until about 3am on June 16.

It is very important the election is free, fair and open. All members had the right to vote for the person they liked – this is the democratic way,” said economist U Aung Htun Thet, who was a member of commission that organised the vote.

Others, however, saw it differently.

I knew that the election would not be transparent when they said the computer system had broken down,” said Daw Khin Khin Kyawt. The head of San Aung Imaging and a UMFCCI member since 1995, she had nominated for a position on the EC.

U Khin Hlaing of Zawtika Company said that the result had been orchestrated by the incumbent EC members.

I saw a list of 69 people [up for election to the EC] that had been distributed prior to the vote. I noticed that most people just voted for people on that list,” said U Khin Hlaing, who has been a UMFCCI member since 2006 and self-nominated for a position on the EC.

He also questioned why only 3 percent of UMFCCI members took part in the election.

There are more than 20,000 members in the UMFCCI and only about 600 came to vote. I don’t want to blame commission because the commission only has right to analyse the voting paper and count the votes. They don’t have right to analyse the qualifications of a nominee,” he said.

Under the election rules, all members who joined the UMFCCI prior to March 31 were eligible to vote. However, they had to formally express an interest in voting, and only 876 members completed this procedure, U Khin Hlaing said.

He added that they declared the election on June 9 and the deadline for nominees – both those wanting to vote and seek election to the EC – was June 12, despite the federation’s rules stating that members must have 21 days advance notice.

Daw Khin Khin Kyawt said it was bad for the federation’s image that an individual who was the subject of international economic sanctions was allowed to be president.

The UMFCCI is an important vehicle for the country’s redevelopment. It can do many things in the business sector. I think a person who can improve the image of the federation should be in the top position,” she said.

The re-elected president, U Win Aung, co-founder of Dagon International Ltd, remains on the United States’ Specially Designated Nationals list, which prohibits US nationals and businesses from having ties with him.