Kavi Chongkittavorn is a senior fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. His research interests include US foreign policy toward Southeast Asia, especially Thailand; the future of the Indo-Pacific; and regional security architecture. He spent three decades as a journalist with the English-language daily The Nation from 1984-2013. From 1994-1995 he served as a special assistant to the ASEAN secretary general based in Jakarta. He is now a columnist for The Bangkok Post. He shared his views on the main issues surrounding Myanmar’s 2020 election with The Irrawaddy.
What are your impressions about Myanmar’s upcoming general election in November?
Voters are enthusiastic to give the NLD another opportunity to improve economic and social conditions.
What do you think are the main differences between the November election and the previous ones back to 1990?
First, voters are more knowledgeable than before. They will pick politicians they think can do the job. Second, under the pandemic, voters do not want to risk having a new government without any proven record. At least, with the current government, voters know and understand what … the government policy [has been] and what will come next.
Many international observers fear that the November election will not be free and fair, citing disenfranchisements and campaign restrictions. However, on the ground, voters and parties alike are still quite enthusiastic and active. What is your view?
Politicians want to contest an election with or without restrictions. They know that already, when they enter politics. It will be interesting to watch whether new parties could win some seats or not.
While ethnic parties are stronger and more active than in 2015, the NLD is still popular. What is your prediction for the election outcome?
I think ethnic parties will get more support and votes from their ethnic groups as the peace process continues to drag on.
If the NLD wins enough seats to form the government, what can we expect to see in post-election Myanmar, given the 2008 Constitution and the military’s involvement in politics?
If the NLD forms the next government, the Tatmadaw needs to continue work with the civilian government and hold dialogues for possible constitutional amendments.
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