Polls are to open on Sunday morning in Myanmar’s second election since it emerged from outright military dictatorship, with Aung San Suu Kyi widely expected to be re- elected though millions are barred from voting.
The election has been criticized as “fundamentally flawed” by Human Rights Watch, and marks a stark contrast from five years ago when the National League for Democracy (NLD) under Suu Kyi, seen as a democratic icon at the time, won in a landslide amid widespread optimism. Campaigning in the South-East Asian nation has been heavily restricted amid a surge in coronavirus cases, while the vote was cancelled across large parts of conflict-torn Rakhine state, disenfranchising some 1.2 million people. In addition, hundreds of thousands of persecuted Rohingya people in Rakhine and elsewhere continue to be unable to vote, after they were disenfranchised before the 2015 election.
“Mass voter disenfranchisement due to systemic racism and conflict-related displacement will become the hallmark of this election,” Nang Zun Moe, executive director of local advocacy group Progressive Voice, told dpa. “Election results will not reflect the will of the people when so many are unable to vote,” she said.
The military still wields ultimate power in the country and controls key ministries under the 2008 constitution, while a quarter of all parliamentary seats are reserved for unelected soldiers. That means the NLD must win more than two-thirds of elected seats to secure an absolute majority – though it can form a government with a smaller majority.
The NLD’s main rival is the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won 28 per cent of the popular vote in 2015.