Uncertainty Shrouds Myanmar Elections

A Myanmar junta spokesperson has told VOA’s Burmese service that there is uncertainty over whether general elections will be held this year, due to what he calls issues regarding voter registration and opposition attacks surging across the country.

When pressed on the subject, Major General Zaw Min Tun, said, “I can’t say for sure right now. All I can only say is that we are working hard to hold the elections this year; however, there are various ‘subversive activities,’” he said in a telephone interview.

Zaw Min Tun appeared to be referring to Myanmar’s parallel government-in-exile, known as the National Unity Government, or NUG, and other resistance groups that have emerged since the junta’s seizure of power on Feb. 1, 2021. The takeover led to the ouster of the democratically elected government of Aun San Suu Kyi and triggered widespread street demonstrations.

The junta also declared illegal an exiled parliament known as the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or CRPH, and imposed states of emergency lasting several months at a time.

Zaw Min Tun added, “Groups like the NUG, its parliamentary body the CRPH, and some other groups in foreign countries are saying that they are not recognizing the elections.”

The NUG was formed by ousted Myanmar officials and some ethnic leaders who oppose the junta and back the armed resistance movement fighting it. The junta has labeled the NUG a terrorist group.

A spokesperson for the CRPH told VOA the junta, formally known as the State Administrative Council, or SAC, is looking for any reason to stay in power.

Si Thu Maung, the CRPH’s spokesperson, said, “We can see that what they are attempting to demonstrate is that even though they tried to hold the election in accordance with the constitution due to these disruptions and difficulties, it will no longer be possible, and they will have to continue to rule under martial law.”

He added, “There have been reports from the SAC that they are experiencing disruptions in the collection of the population census for the election.”

It is not clear who the candidates will be or when the election will take place.

The United States imposed sanctions against Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in response to the coup.

U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said in an interview with VOA last week that there is “no chance” that the proposed elections in Myanmar will be free and fair.

“You can't have a free and fair election when you're jailing every significant opposition when you're committing atrocities when you're shutting down a free press.”

Myanmar’s ruling military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, announced detailed plans for an election during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of independence from Britain on January 4.

In his speech in the capital, Naypyitaw, Min Aung Hlaing said, “Upon accomplishing the provisions of the state of emergency, free and fair elections will be held in line with the 2008 constitution, and further work will be undertaken to hand over state duties to the winning party in accordance with the democratic standards.”

Si Thu Maung, however, said, “We understand that an election is normally announced six months in advance. If the SAC holds elections in August, as many have predicted, they will now have to announce at the end of January. And they will find some options or way to extend their rule in the interim before the election.”

Source: Voice of America