Analysis

Myanmar People Will Never Accept any Election Held by the Junta

By Khin Nadi 6 May 2022

For the Myanmar people, the junta’s promised new election is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize military rule in Myanmar, and so the people won’t accept or participate in the regime’s so-called poll even if it happens.

The people have clearly demonstrated that stand ever since last year’s coup by displaying placards during mass protests saying “Reject the coup, Respect our votes”. No one can have any trust in any election held by the military regime which rejected the outcome of the 2020 general election, robbed the people of their votes and brutalized their lives.

Yet the junta and its accomplices still believe that they can trick the people again with a sham election and so prolong their rule.

When Myanmar’s voters cast their votes in the November 2020 general election, they expected more of the new, democratic Myanmar. But their hopes and expectations were shattered when the Myanmar military seized power on February 1, 2021 claiming the poll was marred by “widespread electoral fraud”. That was despite the international and domestic election observers who said the vote was free and fair.

Voters wait outside a polling station in Yangon on November 8, 2020. / The Irrawaddy

Soon after the putsch, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing announced a five-point roadmap, which included reforming the Union Election Commission (UEC) and pledging to hold a “free and fair” election and then handing over power to the winning party.

Subsequently, he packed the UEC with his own handpicked men to oversee any post-coup voting and annulled the results of the 2020 election won by the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) party in a landslide.

The junta-run UEC is now led by U Thein Soe, a former Judge Advocate-General in the military, who previously oversaw the 2010 general election, a poll that was widely regarded as rigged.

Junta spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun said last week that the regime was making strenuous efforts to hold an election soon.

“We are working to hold a general election in every part of the country,” he said, while calling on the public and stakeholders to work together with the murderous junta to make the new vote happen.

Dr. Lian Mmung Sakhong, vice chairman of the Chin National Front, one of the ethnic armed organizations which has allied with Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), responded that the regime’s plan is simply an attempt to extend its rule for as long as possible.

“An election has just been held. They annulled it as they couldn’t accept [the result] and now want to hold a new one to make people vote only for them. It is totally intolerable,” the ethnic leader, who also heads the NUG’s federal ministry, told The Irrawaddy.

The military’s proxy and allied parties suffered humiliating defeats in the 2020 general election. Those parties will contest the junta’s election and the regime will make sure that one of them, or a coalition of them, will win.

It is also widely believed that junta chief Min Aung Hlaing wants to be an “elected” president, and so will be nominated for the presidency by the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The NUG knows how previous military regimes held sham elections, as in 2010, and in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the NUG’s acting president Duwa Lashi La warned people not to trust the junta.

“They have never kept their promises,” he said, referring to the coup leader’s promise to hold a credible poll and hand over power to the winning party.

Anti-regime protest held in downtown Yangon in February 2021. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Since the coup, the regime has also been working on disbanding the NLD, by far the country’s most popular political party, over alleged electoral violations and has jailed its leaders and senior members, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on spurious charges.

Ko Tayzar San, one of the most prominent anti-regime protest leaders, said that no one can deny that the NLD is the party which achieves the most public support or that the 2020 election reflected the general will of the public.

The NLD has won landslide victories in every election it has contested. In the 2020 poll it won 82 per cent of all elected seats.

He said that the people see clearly that the junta’s proposed poll is a fake election designed to solidify the dictatorship and that they won’t accept or take part in it.

“We, the people, strongly oppose the coup and won’t accept any election to be held by them [the junta] at all,” said Ko Tayzar San.

He also reminded any countries who support the illegitimate junta’s plan that they are going against the will of the Myanmar people.

Late last month, the ambassadors of China and India held separate meetings with the junta-run UEC to discuss the regime’s planned new election. During the meetings, the ambassadors revealed their interest in the electoral processes of the junta’s planned poll.

“I would like to say to the two countries to stop their direct or indirect support to the terrorist military and respect the voices of Myanmar people,” Ko Tayzar San said.

Sai Leik of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), one of Myanmar’s strongest ethnic political parties, also told The Irrawaddy that the party hasn’t taken part in the junta’s organized electoral process since the coup, including meetings with the UEC.

Founded in 1988, the SNLD won the largest number of seats after the NLD in the 1990 general election, the results of which were ignored by former dictator Than Shwe. Along with the NLD, the SNLD boycotted the rigged 2010 election. In 2020, it won the third-highest number of elected seats.

Like the NLD, the SNLD has been threatened with disbandment by the junta-run UEC. Sai Leik of the SNLD said no election can be possible until the regime has been brought to justice for its brutality and violence against civilians.

Over 1,800 people, including more than a hundred children, have been killed by junta forces since the coup, while over 13,000 people have been arrested for opposing the regime.

Junta arson attacks have destroyed over 11, 000 civilian houses in an effort to terrorize the population. At the same time, the resistance movement is waging armed struggle against the regime.

Last year, Min Aung Hlaing suggested that the new election could be held sometime in 2023. But after renewing the state of emergency again in February this year for another six months, the junta chief said that the election would take place when the situation in the country was “peaceful and stable”

Political analyst U Than Soe Naing said that the junta’s planned election is less likely to happen in 2023, given the escalating armed resistance against the regime. Even if the regime makes it happen, it won’t be free and fair, he added.

“It would just become a state-sponsored fabrication plotted by the junta and its allied parties who have never won in any free and fair elections in Myanmar,” said U Than Soe Naing.

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