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Overcoming all Obstacles, the NLD Surges to a Decisive Victory

By Burma Partnership  •  November 12, 2015

Election in MyanmarIt is clear that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will be the next ruling party of Burma, as the Union Election Commission (UEC) continues to release periodic updates on the official results of the historic election. The most recent and official release of information has put the NLD as the victor in 291 of the declared seats in the Union Parliament, with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) claiming only in 33 seats so far. Meanwhile, the NLD has already declared that it has surpassed the two-thirds of votes required to establish a majority victory. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi announced her party won 75% of the total 664 seats in both houses of parliament.

Initial responses from international election observers are that while events on 8 November remained largely transparent, well monitored and peaceful, there are still numerous issues that should inevitably be brought to light, such as: more people who actually voted than there were registered on voter lists; biased behavior and intimidation by local polling station officials; and lack of clear information on the voting process in ceasefire areas within ethnic armed organization’s administration. In a preliminary statement from the European Union Election Observation Mission, the voting process was reported as generally efficient and transparent. It was noted, however, that of 7% of the polling stations out of the 500 polling stations across Burma that were observed by the EU, there were indications that voting lists had prevented certain individuals from casting a ballot and that numerous polling stations suffered from crowding and slow-moving queues.

The advanced voting process has also received considerable criticism from all corners. The Chief of the EU observation mission, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, expressed concern that the advance voting process lacked transparency, describing it as a “black box.” For instance, a candidate from the National Unity Party has claimed that the names of advanced voters released at the polling station outnumbered the number of advanced voters who actually casted a vote. Similarly, a candidate from the National Democratic Force in Kachin State is worried that fake names have been added to the list of eligible advanced voters.

In Shan State’s Lashio Township, the NLD, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), and the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), have jointly released a letter calling on the UEC to investigate the collection of advance votes. In the letter, the political parties expressed concern over the apparent similarity of the writing and appearance of the incoming flood of advanced votes that placed the USDP candidate in a leading position. Four political parties, including the NLD, SNLD, and SNDP, have issued a call for an investigation into the advanced voting process in Taunggyi as well, while doubts and questions over advance votes have also been reported by local media in some other areas such as in Mandalay and Meikhtila.

A preliminary report from the Carter Center Observation Mission also noted that while the work of election observers was not impeded, there were several instances in which Burma’s military intelligence or police monitored them. The report also stated that the UEC has failed to provide an electoral dispute mechanism that is in line with international standards, which could prompt concerns over the course of the following weeks.

Mary Robinson, a member of the Carter Center Observation Mission and former president of Ireland, was quoted, “We have to see this election within a framework which is not openly democratic in the full sense.” Already, the election has received criticism for disenfranchising vast numbers of Muslims, displaced persons, and migrants, and has garnered considerable concern both domestically and from international observers, that the UEC’s vote cancellations in many ethnic areas, the release of largely incorrect voter lists while withholding the actual registered voter list of the entire country, and the advanced voting process will be used to manipulate the outcome.

The litmus test for this election will ultimately be whether the military-backed USDP Government relinquishes control. While the USDP leader, Htay Oo, has already conceded defeat to the NLD, it remains to be seen whether the incoming government will overcome a legacy of centralized and undemocratic control by the Burma Army and the military-penetrated system of administration. The constitutionally guaranteed 25% of parliamentary seats reserved for the military will certainly be one obstacle in the transition to a functioning democracy. This is the same military that throughout the election period and during the results announcements is launching airborne offensives against the Shan State Army – North, displacing thousands of villagers, whose memories of these elections will forever be associated with the sounds of terror.

While it certainly appears that the NLD has achieved victory in the 2015 elections, the next few days will be revealing. Citizens of Burma and the international community alike must demand that the Thein Sein Government, the Burma Army and the UEC adhere to the principles of democracy and ensure that there is no further vote manipulation. More importantly, both the Burma Army and the USDP must respect the outcome of the final election results and stay true to their public pledge of recognizing the victory of the NLD and that the Army Chief, Min Aung Hlaing, House Speaker, Shwe Mann, and President Thein Sein should engage in genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she requested. The people of Burma have clearly shown their will of whom they want as their government and this unwavering strong will from 1990 must be respected this time.

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This post is in: 2015 Burma Elections, Blog

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