Aung Shine Oo / AP
Voters in Myanmar will vote on Sunday in the country’s second general election since the military ceded absolute power in 2011.
While the results seem predictable – analysts believe Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will win again – the elections could exacerbate tensions. ethnic straightforwardness due to many ethnic minorities deprived of their rights. Military facilities continue to wield considerable political power. And COVID-19 can reduce the voter turnout.
David Mathieson, an independent analyst based in Yangon, the commercial hub and capital of Myanmar, said: “It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the NLD will return for a variety of reasons, in That is largely the domestic popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner, who spent nearly two decades in prison or under the military’s house arrest, remains a beloved figure.
“There is an inherently magical connection between her and many voters,” said Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch. “People couldn’t even imagine not voting for her.”
But her party’s win rate may not be as great as it was five years ago – partly because there are few signs of clear progress in improving the livelihoods of people in one of the poorest countries. Asia or end armed conflict with ethnic groups.
Robertson said: “Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD were elected in a landslide war in 2015, including ethnic voting, because they are expected to represent everyone. people. “Increasingly, what we’re seeing is that she’s mainly interested in Burman who makes up 65 percent of the voters.”
It’s a majority voting bloc in a country of about 53 million people, a bloc where racial and ethnic ideas are particularly important for who belongs and who doesn’t.
It helps explain the overwhelming public acceptance – and even endorsement – of Myanmar’s military brutal suppression of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state in 2017. More than 750,000 Rohingya were fled to safety in neighboring Bangladesh, accusing them and their families of rape, murder and torture. A fact-finding mission by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018 reported that 10,000 deaths would be a “conservative estimate”.
Myanmar was charged with genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Late last year, Ms. Suu Kyi personally led the country’s defense team.
Mary Callahan, an analyst and associate professor of international studies at the University of Washington, said: “She stood up for the nation, race and religion – not the military, but because of race and religion. , at The Hague.
Suu Kyi’s decision to go to The Hague proved extremely popular with the majority of Burmese Buddhists. Analysts say it helped bolster her position ahead of this year’s election.
And despite the world’s condemnation of Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya, the government defies. It did not allow the vast majority of Rohingya – fleeers and those who remained – to vote in the election.
“They are also not allowed to vote in the last election in 2015,” said Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey, author of the International Crisis Group’s recent report on upcoming elections. said. “Before that, they’ve voted in every post-independence election since the 1940s. So that group has been stripped of their citizenship. And that’s part of the systematic denial of citizenship. system. “
Robertson said last month that the Myanmar electoral commission also announced it would cancel voting in some conflict zones, stripping more than 1.5 million voters, most of whom are from ethnic minorities. states of Kachin, Karen, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Chin.
Robertson said the military is “prosecuting a war against certain ethnic groups and rebel forces and they are trying to pressure them”. “And one of the ways they’ll do it is to reject elections in some of those regions.”
The military continues to dominate Myanmar’s political arena.
“When the military decided to unilaterally give up power completely, it drafted a constitution that reserved 25 percent of the seats in parliament, plus control of three security departments,” said Horsey. “So this constitution and these elections will go to the hybrid governments. The military will still have considerable political power.”
There are also worries about what could happen if the nationalist parties do poorly in the vote, Callahan said. While some people may continue to be involved in the political process, she said, others may “give up everything and just decide the armed resistance is the only answer, especially to for young people who will wonder why they bother with a system that really doesn’t serve them at all. “
In addition, the election took place at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Myanmar late but hard, starting September. With nearly 57,000 confirmed cases and 1,330 deaths, Myanmar is now a country. most severely affected in mainland Southeast Asia. The virus has strained the country’s rudimentary health care system and forcibly shut down on a large scale, including in Yangon.
While some opposition parties said the election could be delayed until the COVID-19 situation improves, Suu Kyi’s government pushed forward and said it had taken preventive measures. to try to keep voters safe – by providing personal protective equipment to voters, poll workers and volunteers, and more polling stations to try to reduce overload. But analysts believe some people may stay home just out of fear.
Despite the challenges, they say it is important that the elections are happening – and the second time.
“The fact that Myanmar is transitioning from decades of military dictatorship to a government-decisive electoral system is a wonderful thing,” said Horsey. “And that’s something we could hardly have imagined even 10 years ago.”
But it’s an election, he warns, that could easily exacerbate existing tensions between the Burmese Buddhist majority and ethnic minorities and fail to address economic inequality at a time. among the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.