YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – The vote is underway in Sunday’s elections in Myanmar, with the party of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi very favored in retaining the power they already have. won from the mighty army 5 years ago.
More than 90 parties are competing for seats in the House and Senate of Congress, and there are elections at the state and regional levels.
With the chaos of the opposition, Suu Kyi, the national leader with the title of state adviser, remains Myanmar’s most beloved politician. But her government fell short of expectations, with economic growth not doing much to reduce widespread poverty and failing to ease tensions among the country̵7;s uncomfortable ethnic groups.
More than 37 million people were eligible to vote, of which 5 million participated for the first time. The fear of the coronavirus and the safety measures taken to prevent it could hurt voters. Traditional campaigns are severely limited by social and marginalization in some areas.
Ms. Suu Kyi, 75, voted late last month in the capital Naypyitaw, as citizens 60 and older are encouraged to vote first, as well as those with the coronavirus being forced to stay away from constituencies. at home.
Voters in the country’s largest city, Yangon, lined up early outside the polling stations.
Susil Chand, a paper salesman, said: “We need a leader of our country like a leader in our house. “So today’s vote is so important as an opportunity to be a good leader for us.”
Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won the last election in 2015, ending more than five decades of military-led rule in the country.
Her party’s main rival, as it was five years ago, was the military-backed Solidarity and Alliance Development Party, which led the opposition in Congress.
The Suu Kyi’s ability to run the country was hampered by a 2008 military-drafted provision that gave the military 25% of the seats in the National Assembly, allowing it to prevent reforms. constitutional way.
The Election Commission said it would start announcing the results on Monday morning. But it may take up to a week to collect all the votes, some of which will come from remote jungle areas.
With little indication of great interest in policy debates, the vote is seen as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s leadership.
Yangon-based political analyst Richard Horsey said: “No major party has really come up with an alternative, a reliable alternative, partially explaining the reason for her side. Suu Kyi won in central Myanmar, home to the majority of the Myanmar people.
Even more important to the ruling party’s outlook, he said, is “the personal support, even love, that many give to Aung San Suu Kyi herself, almost regardless of government. how it works, how the economy works, etc. ”.
Love does not extend to border regions, states occupied by countless ethnic minorities who have been seeking greater political autonomy for decades.
Suu Kyi’s ambitious plans to reconcile with the already established minority groups. Their discontent has frequently erupted in armed riots, which pose great threats to national security.
Ethnic political parties in 2015 partnered with Ms Suu Kyi’s party on a constituency-based voter basis to ensure victory over the Solidarity and Development Party candidates.
But this year, the national parties, frustrated by her failure to reach an agreement to expand their political power, will only support their own candidates.
The Electoral Commission caused great controversy by canceling the vote in some areas where government-critical parties were sure to win seats. The commission blamed the armed insurgents, but critics said the agency was conducting NLD tenders. More than 1 million people are estimated to have been deprived of control.
The plight of Myanmar’s Muslim minority Rohingya – an issue of concern to the country’s foreign friends – played no real role in the campaign. A brutal 2017 anti-insurgency campaign by the Myanmar army sent some 740,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh, leading to a World Court investigation into possible genocide.
Long-standing stereotypes against the Rohingya, whom many consider illegal immigration from South Asia even though their families have settled in Myanmar for generations, have stripped most of their citizenship and Myanmar’s fundamental rights, including the right to vote.