Election 2020

Claiming Electoral Fraud, Myanmar Military and Proxy Party Calls Special Parliament Session

By San Yamin Aung 11 January 2021

YANGON — While parliament prepares to convene with a newly elected assembly, Myanmar’s military and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) pressed ahead with attempts to discredit the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) landslide victory with claims of electoral fraud.

On Monday, 160 military appointees signed a proposal calling the Speaker to convene a special session to discuss “mass fraud”. It was also signed by 36 lawmakers from the USDP, four Arakan National Party members, two independents and one National United Democratic Party member.

The proposal was made just a few days after the military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing made fraud claims about the Nov. 8 general election, supporting USDP claims of vote-rigging.

“In conducting an assessment after the election, unfair and dishonest practices were found,” the commander-in-chief told the Command and General Staff College in Kalaw via video conferencing last Friday.

He added that the military is trying to point out these mistakes because they tarnish the country’s image.

The military has launched a probe into the electoral process after the USDP claimed the election was fraudulent after its heavy electoral defeat and complained that its calls for an investigation into the election and the Union Election Commission (UEC) had fallen on deaf ears.

The military said it found nearly 4 million voter-list irregularities that could point to voter fraud in 179 townships. The military’s electoral fraud accusations were rejected by election commissioners as “exaggerated” and “absurd”.

However, the military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that the armed forces will continue to act to uphold the law.

The military is looking to convene a special session before the new parliament convenes on Feb. 1.

At a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Naypyitaw on Sunday, USDP spokesman Dr. Nandar Hla Myint said: “There was mass election fraud. The legislature needs to resolve these matters. If the new parliament convenes and forms the next government without addressing the issue, it will be historically damaging and could cause political chaos.”

He also announced the party’s plan to call – together with military appointees – a special session before the current legislative term ends this month.

According to Article 84 of the 2008 Constitution, the Speaker needs to convene a special session if a quarter of parliamentarians make a request.

With the military allocated 25 percent of all parliamentary seats under the Constitution, it can easily meet the requirement to call a special session. But the attempt looks like it is too late as the Speaker needs to make a call 15 days ahead of the session and COVID-19 restrictions will extend preparation times.

In the November general election, the NLD won a supermajority with 920 seats (or 82.3 percent of contested seats) in the Union, state and regional legislatures and the USDP only won 71 seats (down from 117 in 2015) or 6.4 percent.

Dr. Nandar Hla Myint also called for a panel to probe the election during his Sunday press conference.

This would be separate from the more than 1,200 electoral objections filed with the police and election sub-commissions by the USDP which are yet to be completed.

Legal observer U Khin Maung Myint said the attempts to reserve the election outcome were likely to fail.

“Looking at the election results, the margins [between the NLD candidates and USDP] are quite large. So even if the cases are correct, the outcome of the election won’t change,” he said.

The USDP went to the Supreme Court to issue a writ over the UEC chairman and commissioners over electoral misconduct. The highest court will hold a preliminary hearing on Jan. 29 to decide whether to proceed with it.

However, U Khin Maung Myint said the application to issue writs were likely to be rejected by the Supreme Court as the UEC’s complaints procedure was still taking place and there appeared to be a lack of evidence of electoral fraud.

President’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay on Friday accused the NLD’s opponents of false accusations and committing political suicide.

“These are the acts of those who can’t accept defeat. The public knows about the election and for whom they voted,” he said. He added that the newly elected parliament will convene and form a new government regardless of the complaints.

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