Election 2020

After Election Thrashing, Myanmar’s Military-Backed Opposition Casts Doubt on Result

By San Yamin Aung 10 November 2020

YANGON—The chairman of Myanmar’s main opposition party, widely viewed as a proxy for the military, said the party would mount a legal challenge to the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD)’s sweeping victory in Sunday’s general election and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the results.

With preliminary figures showing the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party suffering a convincing defeat nationwide, including in some of its former strongholds, chairman U Than Htay said in a video posted two days after Sunday’s election that the legitimacy of the outcome remained in dispute. The USDP has so far claimed victory in fewer than 20 seats—an even worse showing than it achieved in the 2015 election, when it secured 41 seats in the Union Parliament.

On Monday, the NLD said the party had already won more than the required number of Union Parliament seats (322) to form the next government based on initial vote counts. However, the country’s electoral body, the Union Election Commission (UEC), has yet to finalize the results.

“The voting has ended. Announcements of the winning candidates are ongoing amid numerous controversies surrounding the process [voting and counting]. And, the results have not been finalized yet,” U Than Htay said in the video message uploaded to the party’s official Facebook page, referring to the published initial vote counts from polling stations that showed a sweeping victory for the NLD.

“There are still some controversies surrounding the voting process. So, we will try in accordance with the laws to make the results fair and lawful,” he said.

He called on the party’s supporters to collect evidence of doubtful election results and election offenses and submit it to the party.

The USDP and its allied parties have long criticized the UEC over a range of issues, from the forming of ward election sub-commissions to its preparations for the election. They also called for the election to be postponed over COVID-19, a proposal that was rejected by the UEC. U Than Htay said in the video that it is no wonder the election results are largely controversial, as the UEC ignored its recommendations.

It’s not clear whether the USDP plans to submit objections against individual elected candidates according to the country’s electoral law, or file a lawsuit against the UEC. However, Myanmar’s Constitution grants the UEC the final say on electoral disputes.

Regarding the USDP chairman’s claim, Dr. Myo Nyunt, a member of the ruling NLD’s central committee, told The Irrawaddy: “Of course, they can submit complaints if they have enough evidence.”

On the same day, the USDP-allied National Democratic Force (NDF), which as of Tuesday had yet to win a single seat, said in a statement it did not accept the election as free or fair, claiming that the party faced obstructions in campaigning, and alleging incidents of electoral fraud.

Contrary to the claims of the USDP and NDF, Myanmar’s largest election observer group, PACE, offered a positive assessment of the election based on its observations at polling stations across the country on election day. In its preliminary findings, it reported no major irregularities in terms of securing ballots, vote counting or the identification of invalid ballots.

In an online launch event for a report on its findings on Monday, PACE executive director Ko Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said that based on its observations, the group evaluated specific aspects of the electoral process such as transparency, inclusiveness and accountability. Whether the election was “free and fair”, however, was a matter for political debate among the parties, he said.

He said that in general, when a party loses an election it tends to describe the vote as not free and fair, while the party that wins says the opposite.

Despite challenging circumstances created by the COVID-19 outbreak, voter turnout was high nationwide on Sunday.

The European Union and the United Kingdom commended Myanmar over Sunday’s general election, saying they will continue to work with the next government to achieve full democracy.

In a statement on the election, the EU called on all parties to engage constructively to achieve good governance and democratic reforms once the official outcome has been announced.