Tensions are high in Myanmar with rumours swirling of a possible military coup. Some in the leadership of the Burmese military have openly circulated inflammatory statements regarding possible electoral fraud. The US embassy, along with 16 other countries including former colonial power Britain and EU countries, released a statement yesterday urging for the military “adhere to democratic norms”. They’ve expressed their concerns following November’s elections and allegations of “electoral misconduct”. The claims follow the landslide victory for the National League for Democracy with Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader.
Fears grew this week after Myanmar’s influential army chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing echo sentiments of President Win Myint after he said the country’s constitution could be “revoked” under certain circumstances.
Some powerful army officials allege there were 10 million cases of voter fraud nationwide, a claim they demand is investigated. They’ve also demanded the release of voters lists from the election commission for verification.
The the country’s election commission released a statement on Thursday defending the situation, stating that the polls were “free, fair and credible”, and had “reflected the will of the people”.
In a 6 page statement on its Facebook page, the Election Commission stated that it was investigating 287 complaints, but that on the whole, voting was conducted fairly and transparently on November 8.
“In this election, weaknesses and errors in voters lists cannot cause voting fraud.”
Myanmar is only 10 years into a period of quasi-democracy after nearly 50 years of strict military rule. But even now the government rule though the filter of a junta-authored constitution that leaves the elected civilian administration having to work through the country’s generals.
The situation is similar to Thailand where the a military junta that seized power in May 2014 re-write the country’s constitution installing a Junta-appointed Senate to oversee all matters raised through the elected lower house, following the March 2019 national election.
The tensions eased slightly yesterday when the Myanmar Supreme Court postponed considering allegations of electoral misconduct by President Win Myint and the election commission chairman Hla Thein.
President Win Myint is seen as an important ally and placeholder for State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the actual head of government in Myanmar but is constitutionally barred from the presidency.
The country’s military has been alleging widespread voter irregularities since November’s general election. Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy won the election in a landslide. It captured 396 out of 476 seats, paving the way for another 5 year term. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won only 33 of the 476 seats.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the first and incumbent State Counsellor of Myanmar, she is also the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
In a statement from the US embassy, the Ambassador expressed hopes that Myanmar’s parliament would sit, on schedule this Monday.
“We look forward to the peaceful convening of the Parliament on February 1 and the election of the president and speakers. We oppose any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition.”
November’s polls were only the second ‘democratic’ elections Myanmar has has hosted since emerging from a draconian half century of military dictatorship.
Khin Zaw Win, a political analyst in Yangon and former political prisoner, suggested the military was signalling its intention to intervene in the country’s politics. Speaking to the South China Morning Post….
“The military’s course of action is much clearer now. As illogical as it sounds, military chief Min Aung Hlaing’s argument is meant to soften the blow of abrogating the 2008 constitution.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also raised “great concern” over Myanmar’s recent developments.
Suu Kyi has made no direct comment on the military’s polling complaints.
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