Malaysia announced on Monday it will not support the Myanmar junta’s planned election next year, becoming the first among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to reject the polls.
Myanmar’s military staged a coup in February last year after the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government won a second term with a landslide election victory. The military accused the NLD of serious election fraud – a claim that was debunked by international observers.
The country has been engulfed in violence since the takeover, with the regime launching a brutal crackdown against anyone resisting military rule while simultaneously pledging to hold an election next year and hand power back to the winner. The regime has so far killed more than 2,400 people.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said it was not morally right for the junta to talk about elections after seizing power following previous elections that international observers had recognized as being largely free and fair.
“The pro-democracy group [NLD] that won the previous election won big but before they could convene Parliament, the junta took over power… therefore, it is completely illogical for Malaysia and ASEAN to support the election,” he told a Facebook Live press conference on Monday, according to Malaysian news agency Bernama.
Malaysia’s rejection of the election plan comes as the junta gears up for the polls by compiling voter lists and scrapping the winner-takes-all system in favor of proportional representation (PR) whereby parties and independent candidates are elected in proportion to the number of votes they receive.
The poll plan has been denounced by the ousted NLD, Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) – which most citizens recognize as their legitimate government – and people across Myanmar, as a ploy to secure the junta’s grip on power.
The US recently urged the international community to reject the military regime and its sham “elections.”
Malaysia has followed suit by becoming the first country in ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, to denounce the junta’s election plan.
Myanmar has been a thorn in the side of the regional bloc since the coup, as the regime has largely ignored ASEAN’s five-point peace plan in the face of nationwide turmoil and violence.
The crisis has opened divisions among bloc members, with some favoring suspending Myanmar’s membership while others push for engagement with the junta. Malaysia is among those advocating talks with pro-democracy forces like the NUG.
As well as being the first ASEAN member to reject the poll plan, Malaysia was also the first country to openly engage with the NUG, attracting ire from the regime, which brands the shadow government and its affiliates as terrorists.
At its summit last week, ASEAN agreed additional measures for implementation of its Five-Point Consensus peace plan and engagement with all stakeholders – opening the way to talks with representatives of the NUG.