UNDP Provided Indelible Ink in Myanmar Elections: A Powerful Integrity Tool

Nov 25, 2015

Inky pinkies - a powerful symbol of Myanmar's General Election. The indelible ink was procured by UNDP. Photo: Thuy Hang Thi To / UNDP Myanmar

On 8 November 2015, Myanmar held the first nationwide polls since 1990. Millions of voters dipped their fingers into indelible ink to show that they had voted in the historic elections of November 8. The indelible ink, a critical integrity tool, was procured through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) thanks to the financial support of Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

This was the first time voters in Myanmar had their fingers inked after casting their ballot. The process was fairly straightforward: voters were asked to dip their little finger in a bottle of indelible ink after voting, before leaving the polling station. Voters’ fingers were checked for the presence of ink at polling stations before they voted. This efficiently prevented a person from voting multiple times. Bottles of high quality indelible ink were provided by UNDP to each of the approximately 45,000 polling stations set up for the elections. In total, 90,000 bottles of ink were bought.

Indelible ink, also called electoral stain is a semi-permanent ink that is used to prevent electoral fraud. High quality ink contains a minimum percentage of 20% of Silver Nitrate to make it truly indelible for a minimum of 72 hours after application, that is, resistant to attempts to remove it even using water, soap, liquids, home-cleansing, detergents, bleaching product, alcohol, acetone or other organic solvents.

While the accuracy of the voters’ list has been one a controversial aspects of the pre-electoral period and some commentators raised the risk of multiple voting and impersonation as possible consequences, by drastically reducing these risks, the use of indelible ink has greatly contributed to reinforce the integrity of the elections and to increase the confidence of the voters in the credibility of the electoral process.

The indelible ink has been widely seen as a very positive part of the process. It even became one of the most powerful symbol of the General Elections, with pictures of voters proudly showing their inked finger flourishing everywhere on the Internet and particularly on Social media.

Together with the Union Election Commission and other partners, UNDP has worked to support peaceful, tranquil and credible elections in Myanmar this year. UNDP aimed at creating an environment which was conducive for the electorate to feel comfortable and safe to cast their votes.

While these elections were not perfect and many challenges remain on the way of Myanmar’s transition to democracy, the 2015 General Elections were undoubtedly an important step forward in the reform process initiated in 2010.


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