05/21/2021, 15.34
MYANMAR
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Almost all political parties boycott junta’s election reform process

by Francis Khoo Thwe

The military, which reject the election results of last November, have stacked the Election Commission with their own cronies. Coup leaders want to change election rules to favour small parties (as well as their own proxy party). While some pro-democracy parties have accepted to take part in the reform process, most have refused. For many observers, the junta will only hold elections when it is sure to win.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – The leaders of most of Myanmar’s political parties have decided not to attend today's meeting in Naipyidaw with coup leaders and the junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC).

On 1 February, Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically-elected government and set up a junta to rule the country, claiming that the parliamentary elections of November 2020 were rigged. This followed a poor performance by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which obtained only 71 seats against 396 for the National League for Democracy (NDL), Aung San Suu Kyi's party.

At the time, the UEC confirmed the NDL's victory, noting that any election irregularities were minor and did not change the final result.

Earlier this week, the Asian Network for Free Elections, an international election monitoring group, said that the results of the November 2020 elections were representative of the will of the voters of Myanmar, this despite some issues related to the ongoing pandemic, inaccessible Internet services and the inability to vote in some conflict zones.

The military and its USDP proxy refused to accept the results. Instead, coup leaders replaced the members of the UEC which, in today’s meeting, unveiled plans to change election rules and date.

After taking power, the junta pledged to hold new elections within a year. This later became two years. For many observers, elections will be held only when the military is sure of winning.

All parties were supposed to be present at today's meeting. Instead, only the USDP and some smaller parties showed up. The NDL and other pro-democracy and ethnic parties boycotted the event. In the NDL’s case, the reason was force majeure: most of its leaders are in fact in detention or hiding to avoid arrest.

Aung Moe Zaw, leader of the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), posted on social media the reason for his party’s boycott.

“We are a political party that always says we are working for the public,” he said. “They are killing and arresting members of the public on a daily basis and even threatening us with arrest. I myself have been charged with incitement. I don’t think we should attend the meeting for any reason,” he added.

In order to favour small parties, the junta plans to change election rules, replacing the First-Past-the-Post with proportional representation.

Perhaps this is why the leader of a party not connected to the military decided to attend the meeting. Ko Ko Gyi, who chairs the People’s Party, has been a well-known pro-democracy figure since the 1988 abortive student pro-democracy movement. 

“We decided to work on our political mission by expressing our beliefs to them in a face-to-face setting,” he told the BBC.

Although Ko Ko Gyi says the majority of his party agrees with him, a number of veteran members, including Secretary-General Ye Naing Aung, quit after this decision.

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