Myanmar Junta Leader Endorses Proportional Representation Election System

By The Irrawaddy 1 February 2022

Myanmar coup leader and junta boss Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Monday endorsed the implementation of the proportional representation (PR) electoral system for the proposed election in 2023.

The move is being seen as dangerous for the country as the main groups that would benefit from PR under the 2008 Constitution are the military and its allied parties.

Under the current first past the post system (FPTP) used in Myanmar, candidates who win a majority of votes are elected as lawmakers. Under PR, parties receive parliamentary seats proportional to the percentage of votes they win in an election.

Although PR can prevent one-party authoritarianism, it has its own disadvantages, such as a negative impact on the representation of ethnic political parties in parliament, as parliamentary seats are shared according to the percentage of total votes.

Myanmar’s military holds 25 per cent of the seats in national and sub-national legislatures under the military-drafted 2008 constitution, with the other 75 per cent elected seats.

Political analysts say democratic forces will lose strength in parliament under a PR system, as around 30 political parties out of some 90 political parties in Myanmar are believed to be the military’s allies.

Since last year’s coup, the military regime has consistently advocated switching the electoral system to a PR one.

In a meeting in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw on Monday, Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said “the current FPTP system is not in conformity with the democracy and federalism of Myanmar”. The coup leader tasked the Union Election Commission (UEC) to hold meetings with political parties to change the electoral system to one suitable for Myanmar.

“The PR system must go for a wide representation of ethnic nationalities,” said Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, personally endorsing the proposed change of electoral system.

The junta boss added that his governing body is striving to hold the next election, while urging all ethnic people to join hands with the regime in restoring stability to the country so the election can be held.

The junta-appointed UEC led by former general Thein Soe has met four times with political parties to discuss the PR system. Smaller parties and pro-military parties, which lost badly in the 2020 general election, were present at the meetings.

The major political parties including the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party, which won over 80 per cent of the vote in the 2020 poll, and ethnic political parties that won seats in the same election boycotted the meetings and repeated their opposition to switching to a PR system.

Exactly one year ago today the Myanmar military staged its coup, claiming that the 2020 general election that was won in a landslide by the NLD was marred by voter fraud, contrary to the assertions of local and international election observers. The military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and its allied parties did very poorly in the election.

While seizing power, the military arrested the country’s elected leaders and government ministers including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the year since the coup, the regime has killed at least 1,503 people and arrested more than 11,000.

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