RANGOON — Burma’s first democratic elections in 25 years are scheduled to be held in the last week of October or in the first week of November, the Union Election Commission has announced.
Commission Chairman Tin Aye told the media about the dates for the general election at a press conference on Monday.
In recent weeks, there had been some concern about a delay of the general elections, after President Thein Sein appeared to suggest that elections and a democratic transition could only be implemented successfully if the government reaches a nationwide ceasefire accord with ethnic rebel groups, something that has proved elusive so far.
Tin Aye told journalists that the commission has no intention of postponing the elections, as the Constitution requires a new government to start five years after the current government took office in January 2011.
“To do so, we have to hold a general election. According to the Constitution, we have to start Parliament within 90 days after the elections. To make this happen, we have to hold the elections either in the last week of October or in early November,” he said. “So we can’t postpone it.”
The commission chairman did not provide an exact date for the elections. “After we hold free and fair elections, I will resign,” added Tin Aye, a former top general in the previous military regime and former member of the central committee of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
He made the remarks during a workshop on cooperation and coordination between the commission and civil society organizations during the elections.
His comments on the scheduled election dates were also carried by state media on Tuesday, which reported that Tin Aye had called on the NGOs to be free from political bias when they observe the elections.
The Burma Army gave up direct rule over the country in 2011, installing the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein. Elections were announced for 2015 and are supposed to be a free and fair poll in the presence of local and international election observers.
The last time Burma had democratic elections was in 1990 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, a result that was ignored by the army, which continued to hold on to power for decades.