13 Election Commission Offices Attacked by Resistance So Far: Myanmar Regime

By The Irrawaddy 23 January 2023

Thirteen election commission offices in different parts of the country were damaged in attacks by People’s Defense Force groups (PDFs) from December 2021 to this past Sunday, the regime said in its mouthpiece newspapers on Monday.

Attacks on electoral offices were unprecedented in Myanmar until military rule under junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Most of the attacks took place in Chin and Karen states, where ethnic armed organizations as well as resistance forces that emerged following the 2021 coup, collectively known as the People’s Defense Force, are fighting the regime. Other attacks were reported in Kayah (Karenni) State and Sagaing, Magwe and Tanintharyi regions.

The offices came under mine and arson attacks as well as gunfire and mortar attacks, and the financial loss totaled more than 350 million kyats [about US$123,000 at market rates], said the junta’s newspapers.

Attacks on election offices have intensified lately as the regime is planning to hold an election later this year. Min Aung Hlaing said earlier this year that his regime plans to hold voting across the country.

The junta-appointed election body has approved the introduction of the proportional representation (PR) system to replace the first-past-the-post system in the planned poll. The adoption of PR is widely expected to guarantee the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party the 26 percent of seats it needs in the national legislature. With 25 percent of seats constitutionally guaranteed to the Myanmar military, this will allow the regime to maintain its grip on power, and claim legitimacy as an elected government.

The election body has also made changes to the Political Parties Registration Law and is providing training to electoral staff, as well as updating voter lists.

Revolutionary forces have warned people against organizing or participating in the junta-proposed election. The junta’s updating of voter lists has prompted deadly attacks on junta soldiers and police providing security for election officers compiling voter lists.

The majority of Myanmar people are against the junta-organized poll, being well aware that those who will come to power will be the current ruling generals in different outfits, and their supporters. The parallel National Unity Government and major political parties including the National League for Democracy, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, some ethnic armed organizations, and foreign governments and blocs including the US, EU and Malaysia have rejected the poll.

US Department of State Counselor Derek Chollet reiterated Washington’s rejection of the junta’s sham election in a recent interview with VOA.

Min Aung Hlaing is expected to step down as the chief of the military junta at the end of this month, which marks the expiration of the two-year emergency rule period declared at the time of the coup. The National Defense and Security Council, which is dominated by the Myanmar military, is required to hold an election within six months of that date, according to the constitution.

Political observers believe the proposed election will be neither free nor fair, and the regime might not be able to hold it nationwide. Min Aung Hlaing will however hold the election in towns, where the regime has control, and claim the presidency by any means at his disposal, observers say.