Myanmar Junta Leader Hints at Possible Delay in 2023 Election

By The Irrawaddy 14 September 2022

Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said the prospect of a new election slated to be held next year depends largely on whether there is peace and economic recovery plus political stability in the country, in an interview with Russian news agency RIA.

His remark is viewed as implying that the election slated for August 2023 is not certain, considering that Myanmar’s economy is spiraling downward and the armed clashes in many parts of the country are expected to escalate once the rainy season is over.

When asked about the possibility of the election being delayed during the interview, which was published in junta-controlled newspapers, Min Aung Hlaing replied, “It is too early to discuss it because it is around five months [until emergency rule expires], and a decision has to be made depending on the situation.”

Under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, the chief of the armed forces can impose emergency rule for one year, and renew it twice for six months each. Emergency rule has already been renewed twice, and will expire on Feb. 1 next year. The election must be held within six months of that date, under the Constitution.

Holding an election is also part of the junta’s five-point roadmap released after the bloody military coup. To prepare for it, the regime has been amending electoral laws and taking steps to replace the current first-past-the-post electoral system with the proportional representation (PR) system—a move that would overwhelmingly favor the military and its allied political parties.

Whether the election can be held as planned is open to question as the junta leadership including Min Aung Hlaing himself have repeatedly set out unrealistic preconditions for a free and fair election to take place, including that there must not be “pressure” on people, that it must be able to hold the election across the country, and that the armed conflicts must end before a vote is held.

Renowned political analyst U Than Soe Naing told The Irrawaddy he believes Min Aung Hlaing will hold the election no matter what in order to achieve his dream of becoming president.

“They will hold the fraudulent election in areas they can control, to prolong their rule—unless they are removed before it,” he said.

The junta’s planned PR system is designed to prevent the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) or any other democratic party from winning a landslide victory like the NLD did in the 1990, 2015 and 2020 general elections.

As the military already holds 25 percent of seats in the parliament under the Constitution, the PR system will enable Min Aung Hlaing to fulfill his presidential dream, as it will ensure the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and its allied parties win enough seats to officially put Min Aung Hlaing into the presidential residence. Smaller parties allied with the USDP did not win a single seat in the 2020 election.

According to the analyst U Than Soe Naing, even if the election can’t be held, Min Aung Hlaing might follow in the footsteps of his predecessor as dictator, Than Shwe, and scrap the 2008 Constitution and write a new one in order to cling to power.