On Myanmar’s Overturned Election

By The Irrawaddy 10 November 2021

Myanmar held a general election on November 8 last year. Almost three months after the vote, the military seized power, citing electoral fraud as the reason for their coup. Subsequently, the military annulled the results of the 2020 election, even though independent election observers agreed that the poll reflected the will of the Myanmar people.

Over nine months after the coup, Myanmar is descending into chaos with fighting taking place nationwide between civilian resistance groups and junta forces.

Representatives of the political parties that won seats in the 2020 election and people who voted in the poll recently talked to The Irrawaddy about their views on the situation one year after the election.

U Kyaw Htwe, Central Executive Committee Member, National League for Democracy

It has been a year since last year’s election. Everyone can see that the country is plagued by the coup. No one including the coup makers, their subordinates, soldiers, security forces and government employees are at ease. This is the reality.

The whole country has lost their hopes and futures. This has given rise to socio-economic deprivation and the mentalities of people have changed. And now we are seeing a new set of values emerge.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, Chairman, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy

Before the election, the country was near the edge of an abyss. One year after the election, the country has fallen into it. I don’t know if we still have hope. What I know is we must work to find hope. We have to collaborate and find out how to overcome. There are various problems. Now, people are trying to solve political problems through military means. This is worse and is a cause for concern.

But if we just sit and do nothing, things will only get worse. We have to find a way and do our best. It is bad that the election results were annulled. Not every party that won the 2020 poll cheated. There might have been some fraud. But not all the parties cheated.

U Tun Aung Kyaw, Political Policy Leadership Committee Member, Arakan National Party

The annulling of the 2020 election results amounts to a reversal of the democratization process that was unfolding with momentum before the poll.

It is undeniable that public hopes have been dashed. I was elected to the Upper House. I honestly believe that those elected in Rakhine State were fairly and lawfully elected. [Rakhine] people cast their votes, despite various difficulties, in the hope for democracy.

If an institution is accountable and responsible, it has the responsibility to review the votes, as a way of showing respect for the will of the people. And it has a responsibility to announce the votes as valid if they were cast in line with law. But [the military] has exercised tremendous power to annul all the results. That is against the law.

So all national peoples have the responsibility to demand in line with law that such a thing does not happen in the future, and the elected representatives also have the responsibility to raise the issue when the time is appropriate.

Daw Hnin Hnin Hmwe, Joint General Secretary 1, Democratic Party for a New Society

The military seized power claiming alleged election fraud. Everyone knows that the whole country, apart from the military, doesn’t accept that claim. Armed revolution has emerged in different places across the country because people have been forced to take up arms to defend themselves after the military carried out brutal crackdowns on peaceful anti-coup protesters.

Only when we win this revolution will people be able to rebuild their lives. It is undeniable that people overwhelmingly voted for the National League for Democracy (NLD). There might have been weaknesses in procedures and some aspects of the [NLD government’s] Union Election Commission. But it is a political issue and so the military should not intervene. But the military seized power, which is totally unacceptable.

Ko Min Zin, First-time voter

I feel like our votes were insulted. One year after the election, the most significant thing I have lost is my freedom. I can’t live my life as I wish. I can’t speak freely. I feel like someone is listening as I am talking on the phone now.

I feel like the atmosphere is not safe now. I feel like it is not normal. I want to get back to normal life as soon as possible.

Htar Htet Htet, Former beauty pageant winner who has joined the armed resistance against the regime

It has been one year since the election. Last year, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, I was planning to resume my gymnastics classes and acting career. I thought I could have a happy and peaceful life together with my family, going on trips and being free. I never dreamed that these things would happen in my life and force me to join the resistance. But that is history. When you move forward to the future and take a look back at your past, what you did is your history. Everyone has to write the best of their history.

These are unforgettable memories for me to be in places that I thought I would never visit, meeting people that I thought I would never meet.

Hsu, Voter

First-time voters were very excited [about the 2020 election]. They were even more excited than we were when we voted for the first time. Young people were crazy about the feeling of voting for the first time. And they had pinned high hopes on their future. We feel like our hopes were destroyed.

One year after the election, the country is deteriorating in every aspect. Many people have lost jobs, homes and families and now they are even losing their futures. We feel like everything has been destroyed just as the country was taking steps towards a better future. I feel disappointed and devastated that all has been ruined just when the opportunity to earn a better income was about to come to us.

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