Ground Being Prepared for Sham Elections

October 18th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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While junta leader Min Aung Hlaing stated that elections will go ahead in August 2023, he needs to ensure that the election itself is so undemocratic that the USDP can win.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is already laying the groundwork to legitimize power that he has been unable to establish through his bloody coup attempt by consolidating control of the military-established and military-run political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Meanwhile, the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party leaders are imprisoned while members and supporters are being abducted, tortured and dumped on the street. Min Aung Hlaing is setting a path where he becomes President after a junta-run election that he claims will take place in August 2023 – an election that the NLD has vowed to boycott. No amount of political manoeuvring or sham election by the junta will legitimize the violent coup attempt and the atrocities that the military is committing against the Myanmar people. As the National Unity Government’s (NUG’s) Acting President, Duwa Lashi La commented, the country must go beyond opposing the 2023 election, and ridding the Myanmar military from politics altogether.

The USDP is the political party that was formed by, and serving as, a vehicle for the Myanmar military to remain in power through retired military personnel while the military itself holds 25% seats in parliament. This is according to the 2008 Constitution that it drafted and is hanging on to – a constitution that has already been declared nulled and void by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw – the body of elected lawmakers from the 2020 election, and the NUG. In the last two general elections in which the USDP competed against the widely popular NLD – 2015 and 2020 – it has lost miserably. Clearly, the USDP cannot win an election unless the NLD, or any other popular party championing democracy, is either banished or is boycotting elections. Thus, while junta leader Min Aung Hlaing stated that elections will go ahead in August 2023, he needs to ensure that the election itself is so undemocratic that the USDP can win. The coup attempt, subsequent violence, and persecution of anyone connected to the NLD as a political party, or members of its government, means that the only party that can effectively function in a military-rigged election, is the military party itself, the USDP.

With the NLD already announcing its boycott, the junta and affiliated militia groups are targeting NLD party members and supporters with extreme violence. For example in Nyaung U Township, Mandalay Township, six NLD members or people affiliated with the NLD have been killed in the past week. Three were taken by junta soldiers in the night, with their dead bodies found with their throats cut on the side of the road. Three more were abducted in the same township, and found dead the next day with their bodies stabbed and beaten. This is added to the five mutilated bodies found dead with the calling card of Thwe Thout Group, or blood drinking group. Thwe Thout are a pro-military proxy group that target NLD supporters and members specifically, torturing them and leaving them dead in public places in order to instil fear in members of those who oppose the military’s murderous campaign of violence. Thwe Thout have killed at least 20 people as of early October. More broadly over 900 NLD members have been arrested since the attempted coup, and at least 55 have been killed. Just last week, 20 NLD members were sentenced for alleged crimes under the Counterterrorism Law, with several sentences of over 20 years.

While arresting, torturing and killing members of the most popular political party is one method of defeating the opposition, another way that Min Aung Hlaing is pursuing his own ambitions of power is to consolidate control of the USDP. The USDP conference that was held this past week saw Min Aung Hlaing install a loyalist – former Chief of Police and brigadier general Khin Yi – as Party Chair. Two other positions will be filled by recently retired lieutenant generals who are also Min Aung Hlaing loyalists. This would put Min Aung Hlaing in prime position to take the role of Presidency if sham elections were held, and the USDP were to claim it had won a majority in these elections. This is because the USDP MPs would need to vote as a bloc in favor of Min Aung Hlaing as President.

These are not the only machinations aimed at ensuring the USDP will defeat any political parties, as detailed in ALTSEAN-Burma’s, ‘Coup Watch,’ newsletter. The changing of the electoral system to proportional representation, as indicated by the junta’s Union Election Commission, will dilute the power of the NLD, if it ever were to run in an election again. Meanwhile, the armed group and ally of the Myanmar military, the Pa-O National Army, is already collecting names for voter registration lists in two Pa-O populated townships in Shan State, and pressuring people to vote for the USDP in the 2023 election. Additionally, the junta is pressuring their own troops and staff to register their households in preparation for voting with financial penalties for those who don’t.

Min Aung Hlaing and his junta are taking a multi-pronged approach to attempt to consolidate power through electoral means. It is of utmost importance that any elections that take place under these circumstances must be regarded as illegitimate, rigged, and a tool to serve a failed power grab by the military. These are a desperate attempt to establish a legitimacy that does not exist and are not fooling anyone in Myanmar as regards what their purpose is. Despite this, Min Aung Hlaing, through the persecution of the NLD, the changing of the electoral system, and the consolidation of power through the military-proxy party, is seemingly forcing through this sham process. Perhaps his personal ambition to hold the position of President is motivating this manoeuvring. Regardless, any junta-backed, junta-organised, and junta-implemented sham elections or electoral processes must not be given diplomatic, technical, nor financial support by international actors, as warned by Myanmar civil society in the aftermath of the coup attempt, as well as recently by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The Spring Revolution in Myanmar is seeking to establish a genuine federal democracy, where elections can be held free from any military interference. Until the military is dismantled, any elections must be regarded as a tool for Min Aung Hlaing to legitimise a deeply illegitimate coup attempt.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

2022 Open Letter to Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in advance of the annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security

By 481 Civil Society Organizations across 92 Countries

Myanmar: Japanese filmmaker jailed for seven years in latest attack on independent media

By Amnesty International

Myanmar: Puma Energy to leave amid scrutiny of aviation fuel supplies

By Amnesty International

Human rights breaches in Haiti, Myanmar and Ethiopia

By European Parliament

Thailand Forces More Karen Refugees to Return to Conflict Zone

By European Karen Network

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေး အတိုင်ပင်ခံကောင်စီ၏ ဒုတိယအကြိမ် ပြည်သူ့ညီလာခံနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်းသည့် အသိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By National Unity Consultative Council

UN Human Rights Council 51: UK Statement for the Interactive dialogue on the report of the OHCHR on Myanmar

By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)



Killed in Mindat Township

By Myanmar Witness

Myanmar: Tanintharyi Region Monthly Situation Update (30 September 2022)

By Southern Monitor

Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (27 September – 3 October 2022)

By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

UNICEF Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report No. 8 for 1 to 30 September 2022

By United Nations Children’s Fund

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”