On This Day

The Day Myanmar Voted for the First Time

By Wei Yan Aung 21 November 2020

Yangon — On this day in 1922, the first-ever modern election took place in Myanmar (then Burma), except in Kachin, Kayah, Chin and Shan states, which were under the direct control of the governor. 

However, the majority of ordinary people were not able to vote and only over-25s from the middle and upper classes were allowed to take part. 

Of the country’s 12 million population, 1,767,227 people were eligible to vote in the 1922 Legislative Council election. However, the General Council of Burmese Associations, which opposed colonial rule, called for a boycott of the election and only 7 percent of voters took part. 

The Legislative Council had 103 members. A total of 22 were appointed by the governor, two were civil servants and 79 seats were open for election with some seats reserved for Indians, Karens, Europeans and Anglo-Indians. Several parties and independents contested the election and the 21 Party (later the Nationalist Party) won 28 seats.

The parliament at the Secretariat in Yangon (then Rangoon) was only a rubber stamp with the governor holding an absolute veto over the Legislative Council. 

Despite the many restrictions imposed by the colonial authorities, the electoral process was credited with introducing the concept of multiparty democratic elections to the population.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko 

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