Myanmar - Election 2020
The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lost to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 2015 election.
Nearly 100 political parties will contest in the November 2020 elections, with 79 fielding candidates in countrywide polls and 18 parties participating in their respective state and regional elections. More than 37 million people in Myanmar are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections, though the number does not include military personnel and their family members, who may have been transferred to different locations. It also does not include voters in the five townships of the Wa Self-Administered Zone on the border with China.
By June 2020 election officials in Myanmar had not set a date for November general elections to be held amid continuing armed conflict in parts of the multiethnic country and a coronavirus pandemic of unknown duration, drawing criticism from parties who say the uncertainty hurts their chances. The lack of a specific voting date has drawn criticism from the main opposition party that argues that the lack of a firm polling date will give de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) an unfair advantage in the run-up to the vote. The NLD, the largest of some 80 parties competing nationwide for parliamentary seats, won the last general election in 2015 by a landslide and enjoys name recognition and, its critics said, the advantages of being the incumbent power.
By August 2020 Myanmar officials were scrambling to sort out outdated voter lists in the three-month run-up to November polls, prompting country leader Aung San Suu Kyi to call on the national election commission to swiftly clean up the errors. Myanmar election authorities were already struggling to ensure voting can take place in several military conflict zones and under coronavirus conditions in the nation of 54 million people. But voter rolls posted in public on July 25 did not spare even one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s cabinet ministers from multiple mistakes. The compilation of voter lists is based on household registrations counted in the census as well as from door-to-door surveys.
Myanmar faced the challenge of updating the 2015 voter lists to include 5 million young voters eligible to cast ballots in 2020, removing those who have died, accounting for undocumented migrants, and handling requests for the transfer of votes and advance votes from abroad. A flawed voter list in 2020 would spark conflict over disputes from losing opposition parties or candidates and undermine the legitimacy of the results in certain constituencies.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is up for reelection for the parliamentary seat representing Yangon region’s Kawhmu township, said 06 August 2020 that those who are eligible to vote have a responsibility to do so. “Everyone who has turned 18 and was born to parents of national ethnic groups has the right to vote,” she said. “They also have the responsibility to vote, in my opinion. This means taking responsibility for your country.” She added “Abstaining from voting just because you don’t like the political system means being irresponsible,” noting that Myanmar citizens have only 12 occasions to vote from age 18 to 80 and that everyone should take advantage of this to ensure a better future for the country.
Some political parties in Myanmar backed a call 14 August 2020 by Human Rights Watch for Myanmar’s national election body to revise broadcasting restrictions that they say prevent all parties from accessing state-owned media in the run-up to general elections in November. Current broadcast regulations may harm freedom of speech for political parties which are required to obtain the Union Election Commission’s (UEC) approval for televised speeches to the public on state radio and television, the New York-based rights group said.
The president-appointed UEC is responsible for organizing and overseeing the country’s elections and for vetting parliamentary candidates. The political parties are allowed to broadcast their policies, opinions, and plans on state-owned radio and TV stations from Sept. 8 to Nov. 6, two days before the elections. The UEC has limited the broadcast time for each political party to 15 minutes. But the broadcasts must be pre-approved by the UEC under broad and vague restrictions on what political parties can say, in what HRW said is a violation of international standards for protecting freedom of speech.
“The UEC’s regulations hamstring the political opposition by effectively prohibiting any criticism of the government, existing laws, and the military,” Linda Lakhdhir, HRW’s Asia legal adviser, said in the statement. “Doing so strikes at the heart of political speech and campaigning, and seriously undermines the fairness of the electoral process,” she said.
The UEC’s policies prohibit content that could disturb security, the rule of law, the harmony of ethnic groups, or peace and stability in the country. The UEC also has banned speeches that disrespect the constitution and other laws, defame the military, tarnish the country’s image, or harm dignity and morality. Political parties must also refrain from speeches that could incite students, government employees, or religious adherents to oppose the government.
Myanmar President Win Myint on 03 September 2020 removed the chief minister of Kayah state, two days after state lawmakers voted to impeach him over the misuse of public funds from renting out state machinery and land designated by the legislature as public space. L Phaung Sho, a politician from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, who had held the position of chief minister since March 30, 2016, was accused of embezzling nearly 400 million kyats (about U.S. $300,000) in state funds from the rental of publicly owned machinery and park facilities to private companies.
He was the first head of a state or regional government to be ousted by a parliamentary vote under constitutional procedures, with 16 of 20 Kayah lawmakers supporting the measure. The lawmakers voted after receiving a report by a five-person investigative committee that examined the allegations. Prior to the vote, L Phaung Sho suggested that the committee chairman and two others had abused their power in filing the motion against him.
Despite his ouster, L Phaung Sho remains an MP in the Kayah state parliament and will compete for reelection in nationwide elections on 08 November 2020 as a candidate for the NLD, which defended him on Thursday and condemned the impeachment as driven by a “personal grudge.” The politician went on to say that the accusations had already been cleared by parliament two years ago, because the body had approved annual state budget audits and submitted them to the president.
The NLD issued a statement saying that L Phaung Sho’s removal was a personal attack by the speaker of the state parliament and other NLD lawmakers, who have not been nominated for reelection in November. “Given the fact that the state parliament chairman is not included in the list of candidates selected for contesting in upcoming election, the party’s central committee concluded that the chairman has acted on a personal grudge rather than complying with the laws and procedures, utilizing other party members who have not been selected for election and trying to tarnish the reputation of the party ahead of the elections,” the statement said.
Campaigning kicked off on 08 September 2020 for Myanmar's general election, with some restrictions in place to keep the coronavirus in check. The once-every-five-year election is scheduled to be held on 08 November 2020. In the largest city of Yangon, candidates and their staff were seen raising signboards or handing out their party flags on the first day of the two-month campaign.
Myanmar imposed strict entry restrictions to safeguard its fragile medical system. But the number of coronavirus cases quadrupled between mid-August and Monday, bringing the total tally to 1,518. The election commission told candidates to limit the number of participants in meetings to 50, and to avoid shaking hands with supporters. Such restrictions appear to have made campaigning in the streets relatively calm. Election commission officials say they will decide in October whether to postpone the election, depending on the spread of the virus.
As Myanmar headed into the final week of campaigning for Nov. 8 polls, NGOs and election authorities are warning of increasing violence between supporters of rival parties and violations of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The emerging democracy would go to the polls on Nov. 8 with some 7,000 candidates from more than 90 parties vying for more than 1,100 seats in both houses of the national parliament and in state and regional legislatures in the nation of 54 million people. In a warning about pre-election violence, the New Myanmar Foundation issued a report on Oct. 30 tallying more than 40 incidents of electoral violence since mid-August, compared to 28 reported occurrences during the previous general elections in 2015.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s domestic popularity is expected to propel her party to victory in Myanmar’s national elections on Sunday despite the damage caused to her global reputation over the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims and her defense of army atrocities in an international genocide trial. Limited polling in Myanmar indicated that Myanmar’s voters will give the former political prisoner a second five-year term, after she won office in 2015 on a platform of establishing civilian government after five decades of harsh military rule and ending long and costly wars with armed ethnic groups.
A wide-ranging survey of political views in the multiethnic nation released a month before the Nov. 8 vote found that 79 percent of respondents had expressed confidence in the 75-year-old Nobel laureate, up from 70 percent in the same poll in 2019. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was identified by 39 percent of respondents as the party that most closely represented their interests and views, while only seven percent said that of the main opposition, the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the survey by the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) showed.
Handling ethnic affairs and peace talks to wind down decades of civil wars were Aung San Suu Kyi’s major failures — even though explanations for the horrors that happened to ethnic Rohingya and Rakhines that happened on her watch contrast sharply. Aung San Suu Kyi failed to deliver a tangible progress on some of her government’s major priorities, such as peace and reconciliation with the ethnic armed groups, constitutional amendments, and the economy.
With nearly all votes tallied from Sunday’s vote, the NLD clinched a clear majority of seats in the bicameral national Union Parliament, the Union Election Commission (UEC) said on 13 November 2020. “I can officially confirm that we have won enough votes to form a new government,” said NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt. The ruling party took more than 360 seats at the national level and also won more than 400 seats in state and regional parliaments, the UEC said.
Fresh from an election victory with a new five-year mandate, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy has appealed to dozens of ethnic political parties to join an effort to forge a federal union, the latest gesture in a series of peace appeals in the wake of weekend polls. The NLD proposal came in a letter titled “The issue of unity and Myanmar’s future” signed by NLD vice chairman Zaw Myint Maung and published on the NLD’s Facebook page. The NLD sent the letter to 48 ethnic political parties.
Uniformed army soldiers are guaranteed 25 percent of seats in national and regional legislatures under the constitution it wrote in 2008, holding an effective veto over any significant changes for the constitution, which require more than 75 percent support in parliament.
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