11/10/2020, 13.20
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Catholic scholar says voters are giving Aung San Suu Kyi a 'second chance'

For Lawrence Mung Song, voters have once again put their faith in the NLD, hoping that they will keep the promises they made in their first term of office, including decentralisation and peace with ethnic minorities. The vote went off without fraud.


Yangon (AsiaNews) – The people of Myanmar voted for the National League for Democracy (NLD) to give them a “second chance" because they are aware that "they did not fulfill their promises" in the previous term, said Catholic expert Lawrence Mung Song, speaking to AsiaNews about the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

He explains that many have noted the “failure of the decentralisation process" along federalist lines, as well as the fiasco of the "ceasefire agreement with the Arakan Army (AA) and other ethnic armed groups,” especially in Rakhine and Chin states.

For the scholar, an ethnic Kachin from northern Myanmar, if the government fails to manage the refugee crisis – and it has failed so far – we can expect the “worst-case scenario”, especially violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In this situation, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s role becomes fundamental, especially as state counsellor, which counts more than that of president.

The post was created in 2016 and today “is more crucial than before” because the NLD “solely rely on” her. In the new mandate, she will have "more power and influence" and should not face major obstacles.

For Lawrence Mung Song, “if she has the political will and proper policies, her cabinet can make peace with the ethnic armed groups and negotiate with Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) to reduce the military’s role in the country.”

Speaking about the elections, the Catholic expert noted that they went off without a hitch with as much security as possible despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“There was no obvious election fraud on Election Day. Vote counting is being done properly across the country under the watchful eyes of citizen observers,” he added.

“The COVID-19 crisis and the restrictions on travel between September and November" limited campaigning favouring the NLD’s victory.

Whilst other political parties had to be extremely careful about campaigning or had to stop, NLD candidates could campaign without fear of arrest.

In addition, elections did not take place in many areas inhabited by ethnic minorities because of conflict and tensions, such as Kachin, Rakhine and Chin states, including in many peaceful townships and villages.

The Union Election Commission also “censored speeches of certain political parties on national television.”

The main opposition party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), harvested so-called mail-in votes in its strongholds.

In several constituencies, the USDP won with the votes of soldiers and their families, thus limiting their defeat by the NLD.

The USDP, which is backed by the military that ruled the country for decades, has blocked constitutional reform.

After five years, the NLD government still has many unresolved issues to deal with, from violence against minorities to accusations of genocide at the international court, from its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to its failure to push through reforms.

Ultimately, for Lawrence Mung Song, although “the NLD government still enjoys the trust of a large part of public opinion,” in this campaign, "it does not seem to have developed and discussed the strategies necessary to meet these huge challenges”.

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