Guest Column

Myanmar Does NOT Need New Elections

By Naing Khit 8 November 2021

This day last year was an auspicious and promising one for Myanmar and its people.

Many millions of voters across the country went to the polling stations on Nov. 8, 2020 to exercise their democratic right, filled with pride, joy and a sense of responsibility. Their main reason was simple, but clear: to keep their native land on a democratic path. As citizens, they were fulfilling their duty.

What they could not have known was that the events of the day would eventually lead to an ominous political outcome, and nationwide turmoil.

Nearly three months later, they were abruptly robbed of the election result, their lives brutalized, with the military leaders who unashamedly seized power from an elected civilian government on Feb. 1, 2021 talking about a new election.

A new election! The coup leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, began discussing holding a new vote soon after he seized power early on the morning of Feb. 1, hours before the Parliament of newly elected lawmakers was due to convene.

“What the f*** are you talking about?” That’s the only phrase that can adequately convey the Myanmar people’s feelings in reaction to that idea. They had just cast their votes three months earlier. All domestic and international election monitoring groups that observed the poll said the elections were free and fair. It was indisputable. Graffiti artists spoke for millions of anti-coup protesters across the country when they sprayed “Fuck the coup” on city walls.

Anti-coup graffiti is seen sprayed on a wall in downtown Yangon in February.

On Aug. 1, six months after the takeover, when the coup leader appointed himself as prime minister of his newly formed caretaker government, he again talked about a new election, with a timeframe that it would be held in 2023.

His regime has definitely been pursuing this plan since the first day of its coup, because it is the junta’s only path to definitively override the result of the 2020 elections and to create a veneer of legitimacy for the military’s continued rule of the country. In fact, it’s an old, stupid and blatantly illegitimate method, as practiced by the previous military regime led by the senior general’s predecessor as dictator, Than Shwe.

Apparently, Min Aung Hlaing learned a lot of dirty and wicked politics as a young general from his two main bosses, ex-Supremo Than Shwe and ex-President (General) Thein Sein—how to unashamedly steal an election result (Than Shwe and his regime did it with the 1990 election); how to hold a fake election and rig votes to win a “landslide” victory (Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Gen. Thein Sein did it together in the 2010 election); and how to continue to rule the country in civilian costumes as a false democratic government (which is the game that so-called civilian president Thein Sein played from 2011 to 2015).

Myanmar people are well aware of all these tricks. But in the past they showed tolerance in accepting the bitter political reality, which is rooted in the undemocratic political system the country’s military generals have shaped since 1962, when the late dictator General Ne Win staged the first coup. They have repeatedly suffered such dirty tricks and lies under military dictatorships over the past 59 years.

Enough is enough. This time, they have zero tolerance for similar loaded lies and wickedness by Min Aung Hlaing.

The world has gotten a sense of this, observing the resilience of the Myanmar people as their momentous resistance struggle has evolved over the past nine months despite the junta’s brutal killings and daily arbitrary arrests.

So Myanmar does NOT need new elections. That’s the political sentiment and stand of the Myanmar people today. Principally and personally, no one can accept elections held by a regime anymore. You know the result already, and so does Myanmar. That’s why they, whenever they have taken to the streets since the coup, have firmly held placards which read: “Reject the Coup; Respect Our Votes.”

Anti-regime protesters in Yangon on Feb 14. / The Irrawaddy

The Myanmar people, who have been through both ugly and beautiful experiences in the past few decades, will never accept any kind of election held by the current military regime—or any kind of regime. What they are determined to achieve and continue to fight for is that their votes at the 2020 ballot box are respected, and to restore democracy for their nation.

That’s the message, not only to the junta but also to the entire world and key players like the United States and other Western countries, ASEAN, China and its Asian neighbors broadly.

Immoral coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his junta will definitely pursue their plan of holding a new election to bring about the result they seek (of course, military-backed parties and proxy parties will win to form their own “civilian” government), just as ex-president Thein Sein did.

This time, under the name of the Spring Revolution, the people of Myanmar won’t let such a history repeat itself. The people are willing to die to deter it in order to restore their legitimate votes from the election last year.

That’s the desire of the Myanmar people. In politics, primarily, it’s the people that matter most.

You may also like these stories:

Diplomacy Is Wasted on Myanmar’s Junta

The Revolt Against Myanmar’s Junta Can Succeed

Myanmar Needs ‘People First’ Assistance