On This Day

Myanmar’s Election that Wasn’t

By The Irrawaddy 27 May 2019

A general election—the country’s first multi-party poll since 1960—was held on this day in 1990. However, the military regime refused to honor the National League for Democracy (NLD)’s convincing victory.

A total of 93 parties contested the election. The NLD won over 90 percent of the seats, securing victory in 392 of 447 constituencies as Myanmar’s people, who had suffered under a single-party dictatorship for decades, voted overwhelmingly for the party.

The National Unity Party, the proxy of the Burma Socialist Programme Party, secured just 10 seats.

Before the election, the commander-in-chief of defense services, Senior General Saw Maung, said the military would transfer power to the winner of the election and return to the barracks. Despite his promise, many candidates and members of the NLD were arrested and imprisoned after the vote.

The military regime retained power for over 20 years until 2010, when it held multiparty general elections under the constitution it drafted.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won the 2010 election, which was boycotted by the NLD. But the NLD won the 2015 general election by a landslide and came to power.

U Win Myint, the incumbent President of Myanmar, was among the candidates whose 1990 election victories were canceled. He won in Irrawaddy Division’s Danubyu Township.