Myanmar’s general election, due on November 8, has been condemned as “fundamentally flawed, depriving Burmese of their right to freely elect their government”, by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The democratic process was undermined by systematic problems, including the lack of an independent election regulator, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party’s dominance over the state media, the reservation of 25 per cent of parliamentary seats for military representatives, discriminatory voter registration laws and mass disenfranchisement of voters in many outlying parts of the country.
“Long lines of voters on November 8 won’t make these fundamentally flawed elections free and fair,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.
He pointed to laws and policies preventing Rohingya and other minorities from voting and standing as candidates.
The election will be the first contested national polls since 1990, when the military annulled an overwhelming victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
HRW included the electoral problems as the limited freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement; candidates and voters participating in an environment free from violence, threats and intimidation; universal and equal suffrage; the right to stand for election; the right to vote; the right to a secret ballot; and freedom from discrimination.
One alarming problem is the lack of independence and impartiality of the Union Election Commission.
Chairman Tin Aye, a former army general and USDP MP who stepped down immediately before heading the UEC, has expressed views demonstrating a lack of impartiality.
In June, he said: “As a chairman, I am not supposed to have attachment to the party…. I have an attachment, but I don’t put it at the forefront of my mind. I want the USDP to win, but to win fairly, not by cheating.”
Meanwhile, the USDP denied a rumour that it had expelled Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann.
The rumour spread in social media that the legendary former general was sacked on November 3 when the party’s central executive committee convened. The USDP denied any such meeting took place.
The party recently unceremoniously ousted Shwe Mann as joint party chairperson but he is representing the USDP in the Pyu Lower House contest.