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White card-holders cut from voting in referendum

November 25, 2014


Holders of temporary identification documents – better known as white cards – are likely to be barred from voting in a national referendum on constitutional change proposed for May 2015.


Holders of temporary identification documents – better known as white cards


The national referendum bill submitted by the Union Solidarity and Development Party on November 20 had given white card-holders the right to vote. However, MPs agreed unanimously to a proposal submitted by National League for Democracy representative Daw Khin San Hlaing to cut reference to them from the bill.


Other MPs spoke out in favour of the proposal, after which speaker Thura U Shwe Mann declared the proposal approved. No objections were tabled but the change could still be rejected by the Amyotha Hluttaw, or upper house.


If approved, the change will mostly affect Muslims in Rakhine State, where an estimated 1 million people hold white cards. Leaders of the Rohingya Muslim community say that many would be eligible for citizenship but the government has refused to consider their applications for decades.


White card-holders were able to vote in both the 2010 general election and 2012 by-elections but appear likely to be stripped of voting rights for next year’s election.


In late September, President U Thein Sein enacted an amendment to the Political Parties Registration Law that banned white card-holders from being members of political parties.


The amendment was submitted by the Rakhine National Party, which has also put forward amendments to election laws that would stop white card-holders from voting.