Election 2020

Election 2020: The Week in Review

By San Yamin Aung 17 October 2020

YANGON— ‘Election 2020: The Week in Review’ offers a summary of the most important developments related to the 2020 election during the past week — the stories readers should not miss if they want to understand the electoral landscape. This week (Oct.10 to Oct. 16), three ruling party candidates abducted by armed men in Rakhine state, pro-USDP mob attack NLD supporters in Ayeyarwady region and the election commission investigates the controversial rose party.

Three Ruling Party Candidates Abducted by Armed Men in Rakhine State

Wednesday (Oct. 14)

A poster showing NLD candidates in Taungup Township / U Min Aung / Facebook

Three candidates from the National League for Democracy (NLD) were abducted by unidentified armed men while campaigning in Rakhine state’s Taungup township. The three are Daw Ni Ni May Myint, who is running for a Lower House seat; Daw Chit Chit Chaw, who is running for an Upper House seat; and U Min Aung, who is running for a seat in the Rakhine State parliament.

“It is unacceptable for any group to arrest party members engaged in official campaign activities. Doing so will negatively affect public trust in them. It would be best for them to release the candidates if they want to solve ethnic and domestic issues,” NLD spokesman Dr. Myo Nyunt said.

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Election Commission to decide fate of the UDP or Rose Party

Thursday (Oct. 15)

The UDP members and supporters on campaign trail in Naypyitaw on October 7, 2020. (Photo: Thiha Lwin / The Irrawaddy)

The United Democratic Party (UDP), better known as Rose Party, is facing the prospect of being forced to disband due to accusations of money laundering and the shady past of detained party chairman Michael Kyaw Myint.

Myanmar’s electoral authority, the Union Election Commission, has been reviewing whether the party used illegal money, obtained by U Kyaw Myint, in violation of the political parties’ registration law.

Michael Kyaw Myint was arrested in Yangon last month for his escape from prison in 1999, where he had been serving a 10-year sentence for flouting Myanmar’s business laws. A police investigation had discovered that Michael Kyaw Myint violated the law against money laundering by receiving 16 billion kyats (about $12.5 million) from China in 2015 while he had no legal businesses from 2014 to 2020. A conviction of violating the law against money laundering carries a prison term of up to 10 years.

He provided 13.89 billion kyats to the party. The UDP contested in 2010 and 2015 elections with dozens of candidates but failed to win any seats. For this year election, it is fielding 1143 candidates nationwide.

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Pro-USDP mob attacks NLD supporters in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region

Saturday (Oct. 10)

Supporters who were injured in a clash with USDP campaigners on Saturday. / Kyaw Zeya Oo / Hinthada

Thousands of supporters of the military’s proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), held a rally in Hinthada township, Ayeyarwady region. As they returned from the rally and arrived at Tagwa Village, some of the USDP supporters allegedly swore at and flashed a group of girls at a house where NLD campaign songs were being played. That led to a clash with local residents.

USDP supporters reportedly started hitting villagers wearing NLD shirts and throwing rocks at houses with NLD flags and cars and motorbikes with NLD logos, according to the villagers. Fourteen NLD supporters were injured during the clash and one of them was admitted to hospital for treatment. The NLD filed charges against 26 USDP campaigners for causing injury, swearing, threatening, causing damage and aiding and abetting. The USDP’s Hinthada office claimed the NLD supporters attacked first.

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Elderly to cast advance votes for upcoming election

Saturday (Oct. 10)

The Union Election Commission (UEC) announced that voters who are aged 60 and above in townships which are under stay-at-home orders or have dense populations can cast advance vote in the Nov. 8 general since the elderly are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

Ward and village-tract election sub-commissions will arrange advance voting from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5.

Myanmar Embassies in Malaysia and South Korea Add Extra Voting Days’

Monday (Oct. 12)

To prevent migrants from Myanmar missing out on the November general election, Myanmar embassies in Malaysia and South Korea have kept their polling stations open for extra days. The original deadline in both countries was Monday. Myanmar’s embassy in Seoul will open its polling station for an extra day on Oct. 18 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The embassy in Kuala Lumpur will allow voting until Oct. 16 between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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In their own words:

“I can guarantee we will win if the Nov. 8 general election is free and fair.” USDP chairman U Than Htay said on Oct. 13 as he campaigned in Zayarthiri township in Naypyitaw.

“The upcoming election needs to be free and fair. I would like to urge the election of  ‘capable candidates who can work for the country in a genuine desire with Union spirit’. A right choice could help Myanmar to be fully able to enjoy democracy, peace and development as expected by the ethnic people,” military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said in the message for 5th anniversary of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on Oct. 15.

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More election-related stories:

A Few Predictions for Myanmar’s Upcoming Election

The political landscape has grown more complex since 2015, but certain electoral trends have remained constant over the decades in elections regarded as free and fair.

Myanmar Migrants in Northern Thailand Vote for Peace, Progress in Their Homeland

A Myanmar university student studying in Thailand casts her advance ballot at the Myanmar Consulate General in Chiang Mai on Oct. 11, 2020. / Nyein Nyein / The Irrawaddy

More than 600 Myanmar migrants, many of them ethnic Shan, made often arduous journeys to Chiang Mai in recent days to cast advance ballots for November’s election.

Myanmar Still Fails to Bring More Women into Politics

Lawmakers arrive at Myanmar’s Union Parliament in January 2020. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

Gender analyst Aye Lei Tun argues that obstacles within political parties and hostile community attitudes prevent the harnessing of female talent in politics.

You may also like these stories:

Despite Some Progress by NLD on Rights, Myanmar Muslims Hope for More After Election

Detained Political Party Boss Found to Breach Myanmar Anti-Money Laundering Law, Among Others

NLD File Charges Against USDP After Campaign Clashes in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Region

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