Myanmar Regime Chief Presses Ahead With Plans for Sham Election

By The Irrawaddy 24 January 2023



By The Irrawaddy 24 January 2023

Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on Monday assured a meeting of the State Administration Council (SAC) that the junta’s proposed general election will be staged later this year, despite escalating armed resistance to the regime and condemnation of the planned poll overseas.

Junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) chairman U Thein Soe and legal experts were invited to the Monday meeting of the SAC, the regime’s governing body, which focused on “holding the election and the handover of power to the winning party,” according to regime-controlled media.

At the meeting, Min Aung Hlaing suggested making further amendments to the Political Parties Registration Law. It is not known what particular suggestions he made. The regime boss stressed also that the UEC should not register any political party that has violated the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

Min Aung Hlaing boasted also that he had reached agreement in principle with the few ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have held talks with him on strengthening multi-party democracy and building a union in Myanmar based on democracy and federalism.

The junta chief also urged the UEC to staff its branch offices nationwide. He is apparently worried that staff at election commissions at the local level may not work out of fear of attacks by resistance forces. At least 13 election commission offices across the country have been attacked and damaged by People’s Defense Forces from December 2021 to this past Sunday, regime media said on Monday.

Min Aung Hlaing urged the UEC to ensure voter lists are correct. His order was not a surprise, as Min Aung Hlaing cited errors in the voter lists as the excuse for seizing power from the democratically-elected government in a February 2021 coup.

The UEC has approved the introduction of a proportional representation (PR) system in the planned poll to replace the first-past-the-post system. The adoption of PR is widely expected to guarantee the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party the 26 per cent of seats it needs to win in the national legislature. With 25 per cent 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.

Numerous EAOs including the Kachin Independence Army, the Karen National Union, the Karenni National Progressive Party, the Palaung State Liberation Front and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army have rejected the so-called election. They are active in Kachin, Karen, Mon, Kayah and Shan states.

The majority of Myanmar people are against the sham poll, being well aware that those who will come to power after it is held will be the current ruling generals in different clothes, along with their supporters.

The parallel National Unity Government and major political parties including the National League for Democracy and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy have rejected the election, as have foreign governments and blocs including the United States, European Union and Malaysia.

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

Five people including two police and election officials have been killed by resistance forces so far this month while attempting to update voter lists.

Under the military-drafted 2008 constitution, the two years of emergency rule declared by Min Aung Hlaing on February 1, 2021 will finish at the end of January, requiring the National Defense and Security Council to hold an election within six months.

Observers say Min Aung Hlaing may start the election in towns controlled by Myanmar military, and schedule the voting in other areas for later dates.