Myanmar: Suu Kyi Sweeps the Polls
Though formal results have not been announced, it looks by all accounts that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has swept the polls with over 399 seats in the National Legislature (Pyidangsu Hluttaw). The Army backed proxy, the USDP is said to have had the worst defeat in the years with hardly 21 seats this time from 45 in the last election.
The Federal Legislature has in all 664 seats of which according to the Army imposed 2008 Constitution, a quarter of the seats are reserved for the Army and to be selected by the Army Chief. The NLD will therefore have to cross the magic figure of 322 seats only by getting over two thirds of the remaining seats. This time they seem to have done better that in the last 2015 elections. This is against all predictions prior to the elections.
A day after the elections, i.e., 9th November, jubilant crowds defying all Covid norms assembled in many townships with the party’s red flag emblazoned with the golden Peacock celebrating another five years of rule by Suu Kyi.
This Election, despite the Wuhan Virus scare saw a 5.84 percent rise in the voter turnout than that of the previous one in 2015.
The sore loser – the Army proxy USDP complained of voter irregularities without evidence and has called for a repoll (shades of Trump). The Party Chairman U Than Htay declared that the legitimacy of the election outcome remained in dispute. He also called on his party supporters to “gather evidence” in doubtful election results and submit them to the Party Headquarters.
The Carter Centre, an International Observer Group, found no “major irregularities” at the polling stations. The Centre praised the UEC’s efforts to update the voters lists and adapt procedures for elder people to vote amidst the Covid pandemic. The Centre also called for reforms needed in the legal frame work of the Constitution and the allotment of 25 percent seats to unelected military personnel. But this is not in the hands of the Center or even Suu Kyi.
The only place where the NLD failed to score was in the few areas in Rakhine where election was allowed. The Arakan National Party is said to have scored well and they succeeded in convincing the voters to support the State’s ethnic Party rather than the outside group- the Bamar parties!
The group of 88- the People’s party who had sacrificed a lot during the revolution in 1988 responded to the election results with dignity. The Party Chief U Ko Ko Gyi said that “We will continue to uphold our stance and keep an eye on the new Government and Parliament, provide suggestions to point out shortcomings. Though we are not elected to the Parliament, we will continue to play a supportive role from outside.” It is hoped that Suu kyi will take note of this responsible response unlike the Army Proxy USDP which wants another election!
One of the accusations of the USDP was that prior to the elections, the General Administration Department distributed rice and cooking oil to people affected by the Covid outbreak and that it would tantamount to “vote buying.” Surprising that the party that has many senior retired military officers should indulge in such cheap accusations!
Suu Kyi has many challenges ahead. The economy is not doing well for quite some time and the pandemic has caused further problems. The ethnic conflict is no where near solution and the Pangong Conferences meant to complete the peace process are at a stand still.
Suu Kyi has to contend with the “half backed” democracy with the Army continuing to hold on to 25 percent of the seats. With the Army in charge of defence, Home and border portfolios she has very little space to bring in any meaningful reforms.
There is always the threat of “coup” which many feared when the Army openly issued statements just prior to the elections warning that it would not accept the results this time as ii did in 2015 if the Union Election Commission did not discharge its duties properly during the elections.
She will also have to contend with a Predatory China that continues to have a tight grip on the country economically and politically. Major ethnic insurgent Groups are still under the control of China directly or indirectly.
One word on the media coverage of Myanmar elections in India. Myanmar has a large land border of 1468 Kms and any “look east policy” an initiative taken by the Indian Government will first have to go through Myanmar. Yet there was hardly any coverage of the national election of great importance to Myanmar- in Indian media or even other wise. All the TV channels were busy discussing US elections when not many in the audience would know the difference between Delaware and Pennsylvania!
It is a pity and the irony is in Suu Kyi, India has a genuine friend.