How Myanmar Junta’s Plan to Deceive World With Sham Election Failed

By The Irrawaddy 12 April 2023

The Myanmar junta’s plan to use the National League for Democracy (NLD) to deceive the international community and Myanmar people has failed, as Myanmar’s most popular party will not contest the military regime’s proposed sham poll and has refused to re-register under the junta’s new political parties law.

The regime had hoped to persuade the NLD to contest the election, for which there is still no date, so that it would appear legitimate to the outside world. The junta only gave up hope on that plan last month, after waiting over two years to hold an election.

Last month, the regime arranged for NLD members to meet jailed former State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, hoping that they would be able to persuade the NLD leader to re-register her party with the junta-controlled Union Election Commission (UEC).

Two NLD central executive committee members traveled to Naypyitaw Prison to meet Suu Kyi on March 25, three days before the deadline for re-registration, to seek advice about whether or not to re-register the party.

Suu Kyi refused to meet the pair, but told prison authorities to “get them tea and let them go back”, putting an end to the junta’s plan to deceive the international community and NLD members.

The regime’s plan

Junta boss Min Aung Hlaing sees an election as a chance to cement the regime’s power politically.

However, with local and overseas condemnation of the planned poll, mounting international pressure and armed resistance from the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and its armed wing the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), the junta is aware that its planned election will fail unless it is also contested by the NLD.

The regime naively thought that if the NLD contests the election, the junta would earn some regional and international credibility, while also deceiving the Myanmar people into believing the poll is legitimate.

That’s why the junta allowed senior NLD members to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the hope that she would give her blessing for the party to contest the election.

However, if the NLD with Suu Kyi contested the election, the military’s proxy parties would be unlikely to win, as the NLD has won every election it has contested by landslide victories. What the regime really wanted was for the NLD to take part in the poll without Suu Kyi.

The previous military dictatorship staged the 1990 and 2010 general elections while Suu Kyi was under house arrest.

Min Aung Hlaing also thought that if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi agreed to the NLD re-registering to take part in the poll, it would open up a divide between her and the NLD, as well as the NUG, the PDFs and international community including the United States. And the junta would have been able to prevent Suu Kyi from taking part in the poll as its election laws prevent prisoners from being members of registered political parties.

But Daw Aung San Suu Kyi refused even to meet the NLD members sent to sound her out, leaving the regime with no choice but to dissolve the NLD for refusing to re-register under the new political parties law.

Junta’s efforts behind the scenes

After the 2021 coup, the regime arrested Suu Kyi, as well as the NLD vice-chairs and almost all the NLD’s central executive committee. But it has chosen Daw Sandar Min and Monywa Aung Shin to resurrect the party.

Daw Sandar Min, a former NLD Yangon Region lawmaker, confessed that in recent interviews with the media.

The junta assigned a military intelligence office to control NLD lawmakers and party members, requiring them to agree not to engage with the NUG and PDFs.

It is Daw Sandar Min who has been acting as liaison between the regime and NLD lawmakers and party members.

In her media interviews, Daw Sandar Min was careful with her choice of words in talking about the coup. She echoes the Myanmar military’s line, describing the putsch as a “takeover in line with law”, which reflects her ties with the junta.

Daw Sandar Min and Monywa Aung Shin have tried in various ways to get permission from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to re-open NLD party offices that were closed following the coup.

“Daw Sandar Min sent letters to Suu Kyi in jail,” a senior NLD member told The Irrawaddy. That is not something that could have been done without the approval of the junta.

She also visited Suu Kyi in prison, but in media interviews has admitted that they did not discuss politics and that she left after paying her respects to the ousted State Counselor.

According to sources in Naypyitaw, Suu Kyi received Daw Sandar Min, but later told the prison authorities not to deliver letters from Daw Sandar Min anymore, having already told her not to visit again. Another failed meeting confirmed this.

On March 25, former NLD Tanintharyi Region chair U Aung Soe and lower house lawmaker U Win Myint Aung, who represented Depayin Township in Sagaing Region, traveled to Naypyitaw Prison, where Suu Kyi is held in solitary confinement. Their visit came just three days before the regime-controlled UEC dissolved the NLD.

Daw Sandar Min did not accompany the two men, having been told not to come again. But Suu Kyi’s blunt message to “get them tea and let them go back” shattered the junta’s plan to exploit Suu Kyi and the NLD.

Now the regime faces a rerun of the 2010 poll, when proxy parties contested the poll and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party took office.