Home Insider Articles Picturing the Better, or Perhaps, the Worse Election

Picturing the Better, or Perhaps, the Worse Election

This is an opinion story. You can think freely about this story as you prefer and it has no purpose against any organization.

As we all know that come 8 November, Myanmar will bear witness to its 3rd General Election which will play a vital role in changing the country for the next five years. It may be a sheer coincidence that Myanmar is having the election in the same week as the United States. As the virtuous notion of democracy has constantly been shuddered in the States in the past four years, it was totally a dead loss in Myanmar in defiance of the belief moulded in 2015 – the very first election following the prolonged confinement of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Over the last five years in Myanmar, a tiny spark of hope has scrambled and unmasked the shambolic democracy of the country. It was also the first time the country had an elected democratic government in half a century, yet the optimism wasn’t really galvanized and so was the agony. Aung San Suu Kyi could not take up the post of the President and instead had to create a new position of State Counsellor for her. When Suu Kyi’s party, National League for Democracy, has won by a landslide in the 2015 election, no one can say for sure that the NLD will win again in such a landslide, and even if it does, the country’s democracy journey sees a long road ahead.  Hence, it’s very important for the Union Election Commission (UEC) to put on the fair-mask for 8 November. 

National League for Democracy (NLD), has won by a landslide in the 2015 election, no one can say for sure that the NLD will win again in such a landslide, and even if it does, the country’s democracy journey sees a long road ahead.  Hence, it’s very important for the Union Election Commission (UEC) to put on the fair-mask for 8 November.

Hla Thein, the chairman of UEC gave a statement on July 1, saying “multi-party general election for the Pyithu Hluttaw”. Nonetheless, Suu Kyi’s government has approved of a military crackdown that drove hundreds of thousands Rohingyas into Bangladesh in 2017 which gained an unbidden attention by international media. Regardless, it is very prominent for the UEC to put on a fair-mask for the coming Election; freedom is a key in this ballot. Last month, several complaints stormed through the suspicion of UEC and its decision to halt election campaigns of political parties due to the Coronavirus restrictions of gathering crowds. 

However, on the other hand, the president Win Myint and Suu Kyi will run in respective constituencies in Yangon region. As a political prisoner and being banned from becoming a president because of a constitutional restriction barring candidates with foreign spouses or children, Suu Kyi’s image has been besmirched by an unsolved puzzle of Rakhine State. Following the case filed by the Gambia, she personally appeared at the U.N. International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Hague and defended the country’s military against allegations of genocide.

In the upcoming poll, NLD will compete a total of 1131 seats; 162 seats inside theAmyothar Hluttaw, 319 seats inside Pyithu Hluttaw, 622 seats in the State and Regional Hluttaws and 29 seats for the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs. “Now the odds are higher than 2015. We could increase the number of seats we will win”, Dr Zaw Myint Maung, Second Vice President of Nation League for Democracy (NLD) said in a press conference last month.

In ethnic areas, the party has prioritized local ethnic candidates and 12% of farmers are also accounted for in November’s general election. Myanmar currently has 96 registered political parties. They will vie for a total of 1,171 seats that are up for grabs in both houses of the Union Parliament and in the state and regional legislatures. The election commission announced that more than 37 million people are eligible to vote and 97 parties will contest the polls. A total of 1,171 seats are at stake at the national, state and regional levels.

Dr Nanda Hla Myint, spokesperson of Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) gave his comment in the recent interview with us as follows. “Everyone knows it’s against the Constitution 2008 that the President cannot participate in political campaigns. It’s violating the Constitution in the most ferocious way. Besides, it subsequently affects the essence of the free and fair election regarding such a power by the President and sets a record of violating the national law in Myanmar’s next history.”

Dr Thet Thet Khine, founder of the People’s Pioneer Party (PPP) party has also spoken about the restrictions in the same issue. “We can’t host our campaigns now due to Covid-19 restrictions by the Ministry of Health. I suggest UEC shall start giving permissions for political parties to host election campaigns as soon as possible.”

Now that the country is almost hit by the second wave and Sittwe in Rakhine State is sealed off, gathering of crowds will be more forsaken. Thus, it can be questioned how parties would host campaigns amidst the pandemic. Gradually, over the past few years, NLD has made some efforts to advocate business yet major issues remain in some sectors such as jobs, infrastructure and foreign investment worsened by the  foregoing  attempt by the national reconciliation. Although Myanmar has not been hit hard by the Covid-19, the rate of growth of a diminished economy has been lower than that of the beginning of when it started opening to the world.

Since the coming election has to run under the Constitution of 2008 and it is one of the paths toward federal democracy, it is very important for major parties to push for it and it also depends on how much they can push through that path. Besides, during these five years, the NLD was unable to implement the process to establish federal democracy and reports say both ethnic forces and democratic forces said they have to rely on themselves. Thus, in any field of business, according to our survey, some people said they are not even voting any party. The reason comes out as a lack of confidence since those parties talked about what they will achieve when they won and nothing much has changed due to their experiences. Some also said they don’t like their performances either.

One more thing. There was a controversy with election monitoring (as for now). Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, the Executive Director of the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) said that the Union Election Commission (UEC) had not given him an official reply whether they would give PACE permission to observe the November election. The reason was also revealed later that it’s not an official association registered under the law.

Since many international observers will not be allowed into the country, due to the restrictions on Coronavirus, PACE was expected to play a crucial role in the polls like it had successfully monitored in the 2015, 2017 by-elections and 2019 municipal elections with its more than 2,900 observers.

“We met with UEC members on August 18, their Director General told us to get Form (5) for registration of our association for the permission to observe the election. Thus we had submitted it and no reply has come until now”, he told local media Mizzima on August 22.

Hence, the incident has led to more than 450 civil society groups to issue a joint statement calling for the decision to be overturned in the name of a “free and fair” election.

“Without Pace the elections will not be credible,” said Khin Zaw Win, director of policy advocacy group Tampadipa Institute inside an article with Bangkok Post on August 15.

Nonetheless, in the come November, we will witness the first ever General Election amidst the pandemic and polls outcome. Let’s look forward to seeing if the NLD party could overcome the rising disillusionment of the country’s many ethnic minority groups.

Update: According to PACE, it got the accreditation to observe the upcoming 2020 general elections on September 3, 2020.