Election 2020

Election 2020: The Week in Review

By San Yamin Aung 29 August 2020

‘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. In the headlines this week (Aug. 22-28)—11 weeks ahead of election day—were the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD)’s convention in Naypyitaw, which brought together its lawmakers in the Union Parliament, and the army chief’s instructions to military personnel regarding whom they should vote for.

NLD chair State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (center), vice chair President U Win Myint (left) and Mandalay Region Chief Minister U Zaw Myint Maung (right) arrive at the party’s assembly in Naypyitaw on Sunday. / Chair NLD / Facebook

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urges her party’s MPs to put aside personal pride

Sunday (Aug. 23)

NLD chairwoman and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told her party’s lawmakers not to seek electoral victory over their opponents for the sake of personal pride. Rather, they should make the interests of the people their top priority, she said during an assembly in Naypyitaw of party leaders and NLD lawmakers in the Union Parliament.

“You must work with the attitude that you seek electoral victory for the benefit of the country. You must also keep in mind that you run in the election for the sake of the rule of law,” she told the lawmakers, most of whom are running in the election and will return to their constituencies in September for electoral campaigning.

She reminded them that the electoral success they achieved in the previous general election in 2015 was not due to their personal accomplishments, but was achieved thanks to the party’s image, which is based on its history of democratic struggle. She urged them to keep following the party’s rules and to try to earn the public’s trust and respect.

During the assembly, the NLD chairwoman thanked her comrades, including those now deceased, for walking with the party on its long journey, which had been hard and tough most of the way.

The NLD will contest 1,143 seats out of a total of 1,171 up for grabs in the Union Parliament and state and regional legislatures.

Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attends a ceremony honoring military doctors in Naypyitaw on Sunday. / Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Commander-in-chief cautions military personnel to vote for ‘correct’ candidates

Sunday (Aug. 23)

At a ceremony honoring military doctors in Naypyitaw, army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing warned military personnel that voting for the wrong candidates in the election would harm the country, and offered his advice on the “correct candidates.”

He told them to assess the records of the governments led by the NLD and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and vote for the party that had best served the country.

The senior general also advised political parties to choose the “correct” candidates based on six criteria. Good candidates, he said, will work for their constituents; work for the country; uphold the national interest; understand the military’s role in national politics; respect race and religion; and be free from foreign influence.

It is hard to find candidates who satisfy all six criteria, the army chief said, but he urged military personnel to look for those who possess as many of those characteristics as possible.

A man casts his vote at a polling station in Yangon during the 2018 by-election. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

Election Commission to issue accreditation for PACE, but sets condition

Monday (Aug. 24)

The Union Election Commission (UEC) told the country’s largest election monitoring group, PACE, that it would grant the group an accreditation letter so that it could observe the election, but only after it obtains official registered status under the Association Registration Law. The UEC’s move came after its previous denial of permission for the group to observe the polls drew widespread criticism.

PACE said in a statement that the commission’s requirement that it be registered before it can obtain accreditation to observe the election is impractical, as the group is not sure that the registration will be complete in time, adding that the requirement poses a hindrance to its ability to observe the election. Under the current registration law, registration of nongovernmental organizations is voluntary.

Daw Win Mya Mya / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Ultranationalist Buddhist monks object to NLD Muslim candidate

Tuesday (Aug. 25) 

Hundreds of ultranationalist Buddhist monks and Mandalay residents sent a complaint letter to the NLD’s Central Executive Committee, saying they object to the party’s selection of Daw Win Mya Mya to run for the Lower House seat in the Sintkai constituency of Mandalay Region, and calling for her replacement with a Buddhist candidate.

Daw Win Mya Mya, a veteran NLD member and survivor of the Depayin Massacre, is one of two Muslim candidates the party is fielding in the election. In the complaint, the ultranationalists said Daw Win Mya Mya is not appropriate for the post as she is a Muslim, not a native of Sintkai and not a university graduate.

It is the latest attempt by so-called nationalists to interfere in the country’s politics. Under Myanmar’s Constitution, members of religious orders including Buddhist monks are ineligible to vote or run in elections.

The NLD rejected the complaint, firmly standing behind its candidate. It said the party selected all candidates carefully, based on its criteria for running in an election and the party’s policies.

Workers at a fabric-printing service in Yangon’s Shwegondine neighborhood prepare T-shirts with NLD logos. / Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy

NLD expels members set to run as independent candidates

Wednesday (Aug. 26)

The NLD announced that it had expelled some members who are running independently or for a rival party in the upcoming election. According to the NLD, there are around 40 members who are set to run in the election on their own after not being selected as candidates.

In their own words:

“The candidates you support should be those who will benefit the country. If you make the wrong choice, it will harm the country.” — Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, addressing a ceremony honoring military doctors in Naypyitaw.

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