An Apartheid Election Less Free and Fair Than the Last

November 5, 2020

Burma Campaign UK today publishes a new Briefing Paper: Burma’s 2020 Election. A Step Forward or a Step Back? The Briefing is available here.

The Briefing Paper discusses how rather than this election being an improvement on the last, it will be less free and fair. More people will be disenfranchised in this election than the last, and those disenfranchised are almost all from ethnic and religious minorities.

The greatest shadow over the credibility of the election is the continued banning of Rohingya people being allowed to vote, and the astonishing silence of the international community over this issue.

Key points from the briefing:

  • Under Burma’s military drafted 2008 constitution, it is impossible for elections to be free and fair.
  • Even within the constraints of the constitution, the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has engaged in activities which will make this election less free and fair than the last one.
  • This is an apartheid election, with most Rohingya banned from voting.
  • International donors, including the UK, ignored a UN recommendation to review support for the election if Rohingya were excluded, and provided support to the racist government body, the Union Election Commission.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi remains constitutionally barred from the Presidency, although she has circumvented this ban through the State Counsellor position.
  • Ethnic and religious minorities will suffer most from disenfranchisement and marginalisation in the election.
  • In light of the military’s refusal to agree changes to the 2008 constitution, and the undemocratic actions and human rights violations by the civilian NLD-led government, the international community needs to reassess its assumption that Burma is undergoing a transition to democracy, and change its approach accordingly.
  • The NLD will likely win the election but with a reduced majority. Key to watch will be the percentage of vote going to the military party, the USDP, which in 2015 received almost 30% of the vote.

The briefing states: “Within the limits of the Constitution there is scope for the civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, to allow the elections to be more open, free and fair. There is the opportunity for debate about the future of the country, strengthening and entrenching the democratic gains which have been made, even within the constitution constraints. This is not happening. Instead there has been a reverse in freedoms under the NLD government, and flawed and undemocratic decisions taken with regard to the holding of the election.”

“The fact that these elections are less free and fair than the last should be a wake-up call to the international community about the direction Burma is moving in,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Ethnic and religious minorities are being disenfranchised on a huge scale and the international community is virtually silent.  If there can’t be constitutional democratic reforms and elections are less free and fair, where is the democratic transition the British government and others say they are supporting?”


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