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Elections 2015 - Analysis and Comment


Final Results Graphics comparing 1990, 2010, 2012 and 2015 - Upper and Lower House

Myanmar Times - 24 November 2015


 Election Results in detail at this link  


The mission, which comprised a core team, long-term observers and short-term observers from EU Member States, was led by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Vice-President for Human Rights and Democracy of the European Parliament. The observers were deployed throughout the country and interacted with electoral officials, candidates, political parties, voters, civil society representatives and the media.

Their mandate was to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the electoral process and to verify its compliance with domestic laws and regional and international commitments for democratic elections to which Myanmar has subscribed.

EU election team urges citizenship law overhaul - Myanmar Times 1 April 2016

Australian National University - University of Yangon: 11 January 2015

Myanmar’s 8 November 2015 election saw the re–emergence of genuine and widespread voter engagement in contentious party politics. Despite fears of widespread electoral fraud or inaccurate voter lists, the process was generally orderly, violence-free and in accordance with standard procedure.

This new summary paper provides important insight and on the ground observations of the vote from more than 30 foreign and Myanmar scholars, journalists and electoral advisors. The product of a closed-session round table at the University of Yangon’s Department of International Relations in collaboration with the Australian National University’s Myanmar Research Centre, topics covered include party development, voter engagement and the campaign; the efficacy of the electoral process and perceptions of integrity; the management of election results; and the implications of initial outcomes for Myanmar’s ongoing transition.

International Crisis Group Briefing - 9 December 2015

The election result was a powerful expression of desire for political change and a better life. It was also a huge vote of confidence in Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, for so long the symbols of resistance to military rule, to deliver those objectives. The responsibility for meeting expectations that now falls on their shoulders is daunting. With limited experience of the business of government and a need to find the required human resources quickly, the learning curve will be steep. The new government will benefit enormously from the domestic and international support and cooperation that it will be able to call on. At the same time, the election has not changed the fundamental challenges facing the nation, to which there are no easy solutions. If not handled deftly, it is possible that crisis management could take a lot of time away from efforts to deliver positive change.

Read the full report which includes the tables of final results for the National Legislature and for the State and Region Assemblies, but not the precise vote count for individual parties which has yet to be released. The ICG estimate of the percentage of the popular vote based on preliminary figures released on 2 December 2015 is 57% for the National League for Democracy and 28% for their closest competitors, the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The Irrawaddy - 16 November 2015
The interview concludes: 

"Here, I would like to call for considering [what is best] for the sake of the country and fulfilling one’s own duties. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had suggested sanctions be imposed for national development of the country. I have told her here, in this room, that to make the sanctions lifted and that attempts should never be made to break up the military. What is an election? It is the selection of people’s representatives to be sent to Parliament. The election commission is obliged to undertake this process fairly. I have completed this process thanks to the efforts of [election] subcommissions at the different levels.

"They [MPs-elect] will get into the Parliament, and form the government and exercise executive power; the Parliament will exercise legislative power; and appointed judges will exercise judicial power. It is up to them to strive for the development of the country through checks and balances. It is up to them whether to join hands and work shoulder to shoulder, or walk in opposite directions. It [political stakeholders’ collaboration or non-collaboration] will determine the fate of the country. As for me, I’ve accomplished my duties."

Financial Times Editorial - 14 November 2015

Conclusion: "The challenges facing the 70-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi should not be underestimated. She is an icon of democracy but untested as a political leader. She is said to be vague on policy, especially economic matters. She has been too quiet on the need to alleviate the suffering of the 1m Rohingyas, a Muslim minority whom the government has declared stateless and which had no right to vote in last weekend’s poll. She should speak out forcefully against their persecution.

"Myanmar’s election is an uplifting example of democracy in Asia, where political freedom seems to be in retreat. Thailand is run by a military government which took power after a coup; Malaysia is in the midst of a full-blown political crisis; and China is increasingly cracking down on dissidents. Almost 70 years after her father led Burma to independence - and nearly 30 after she returned home from Oxford - Aung San Suu Kyi is giving a renewed chance of freedom to her country. The hope must be that she succeeds."

 
Financial Times Editorial - 14 November 2015

Conclusion: "The challenges facing the 70-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi should not be underestimated. She is an icon of democracy but untested as a political leader. She is said to be vague on policy, especially economic matters. She has been too quiet on the need to alleviate the suffering of the 1m Rohingyas, a Muslim minority whom the government has declared stateless and which had no right to vote in last weekend’s poll. She should speak out forcefully against their persecution.

"Myanmar’s election is an uplifting example of democracy in Asia, where political freedom seems to be in retreat. Thailand is run by a military government which took power after a coup; Malaysia is in the midst of a full-blown political crisis; and China is increasingly cracking down on dissidents. Almost 70 years after her father led Burma to independence - and nearly 30 after she returned home from Oxford - Aung San Suu Kyi is giving a renewed chance of freedom to her country. The hope must be that she succeeds."


Latest Comment

Democratic Voice of Burma - 12 November 2015

In 2010, when the NLD boycotted a general election now considered as a sham, their ethnic partners followed suit. The refusal to run led to the splintering of many of the ethnic parties that had named themselves after Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. SNLD figures left to form the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party. A new Rakhine Nationalities Development Party split from the Arakan National League for Democracy. These rebels contested and won many seats in 2010, while the loyalists had to wait until the 2012 by-elections to get a foot in the door.

This time around, many expected Suu Kyi’s party to pay back its ethnic allies by not contesting their strongholds, leaving them to take the fight to the USDP. That didn’t happen. Instead, the NLD ran across the country, fielding individual ethnic candidates in their respective areas. The move has now paid off in a big way across the country.

The SNLD’s losing experience is one mimicked across Burma, indeed, it is the Shan party that may well wind-up doing best of all. The ANP has performed reasonably well in its home state, notwithstanding the ejection of its leader Dr Aye Maung from his constituency. It’s a wipe-out elsewhere. In Kachin, Karen and Mon states the major ethnic parties all failed to pick up more than four seats as of Thursday. The projections don’t look good either.

Grant Peck: Associated Press - 12 November 2015

Coming from a politician who has spent her career fighting military rule, the statements seem rather authoritarian: "I'll be above the president," who "will be told exactly what he can do."

Though officially barred from the presidency, Aung San Suu Kyi says she will effectively lead the country if her party wins elections that it has so far dominated. Some observers are dismayed by her willingness to place herself above not just the president but the law. Others say she's obeying the will of the people and subverting a military-dictated constitutional clause intended to lock her out of power.

Two days after the election, as early returns pointed to a sweeping NLD victory, Suu Kyi responded to a question about being "above the president" in an interview with the BBC.

"Well, I'll make all the decisions, it's as simple as all that," she said, deeming the constitutional requirements a technicality "that won't stop me from making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party." Read more.....


Obama commends Myanmar President, Suu Kyi  for historic election

Reuters - 12 November 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama called Myanmar President Thein Sein on Thursday to congratulate him on successfully staging a historic general election in which democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi trounced the ruling camp.

Obama also called Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which has won more than 80 percent of the seats declared so far in the lower house, to commend them for their success, which puts her on course to form the new cabinet. NLD is also well ahead in the upper house and regional assemblies.

"The two leaders discussed the importance for all parties to respect the official results once announced and to work together with a spirit of unity to form an inclusive, representative government that reflects the will of the people," the White House said in a statement following Obama's call with Thein Sein's presidential spokesman and Information Minister Ye Htut said on his Facebook page: "He said America would continue cooperating with the Myanmar government."


Experts warn Myanmar's Opposition victory could affect Japanese businesses

The Japan Times - 9 November 2015

In the wake of Myanmar’s ruling party conceding defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition forces in the nation’s first free general election in 25 years, Japanese experts say it could have mixed repercussions for Japanese companies investing there.

“Japanese companies are worried about whether the NLD has sufficient knowledge and human resources to take the helm of state,” said Masahiko Ebashi, president of Myanmar Economic Research and Consulting Co., a think tank based in Yangon. “Can they really run the state without the help of the military?”

A former official of Japan External Trade Organization who was also a professor at Meiji Gakuin University, Ebashi compared the victory to when the Democratic Party of Japan knocked the Liberal Democratic Party out of power in 2009 after the LDP had been steering Japan for almost all of the postwar period.

“Even though Japan’s bureaucracy is considered well-organized and strong, there was still confusion after the DPJ took power,” Ebashi said. “Having witnessed that, Japanese firms are worried about what might happen in Myanmar.” Read more.....

Myanmar Times - 11 November 2015

The NLD said in a statement this afternoon that Minister for Information U Ye Htut, a presidential spokesperson, congratulated the party for its win on behalf of U Thein Sein. The NLD said the president thanked the party for its cooperation in the November 8 general election and pledged his support for a peaceful transfer of power once its win is confirmed by the Union Election Commission.

“In accordance with the Union Election Commission’s election results announcement, I would like to congratulate you, the NLD, for leading the race for parliamentary seats,” the NLD quoted U Ye Htut as saying. “In honour of the citizens’ desire, the government will pursue a peaceful transfer in accordance with the legislated timeline.”

Under Myanmar’s constitution, MPs elected on November 8 will not be sworn in until late January, when the five-year term of the current parliament ends. The new MPs will choose the president in February, and the president will form a government to take office on March 30, 2016.

Meanwhile, U Ye Htut said the government also agreed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s proposal for a meeting to discuss national reconciliation. He said the meeting would take place “after the Union Election Commission has completed its electoral duties”. “We all will cooperate for the stability of post-election interim period,” U Ye Htut said, according to the NLD.

The Irrawaddy - 10 November 2015

While official results are still being announced intermittently by the Union Election Commission (UEC), the National League for Democracy (NLD) has been keeping its own tally, with the party claiming to have secured a majority of Union Parliament seats.

According to the NLD’s election campaign team, the party has won at least 380 seats across both houses of Parliament, which would represent a majority of total Union Parliament seats -166 of which are reserved for the military.

As the election could not be held in seven townships, there are now only 433 seats in the Lower House which, when combined with 224 Upper House seats, totals 657 seats in the bicameral parliament. Therefore, to form government, the key number is 329 seats. Read more.....

BBC Video Interview with  Fergal Keane - 10 November 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi was brimming with confidence. This was a leader who strongly sensed her hour had come. "The times have changed, the people have changed," she said. On the vexing question of the presidency from which she is constitutionally barred, she repeated she would make the big decisions while a colleague holds the post, joking: "A rose by any other name."

The Opposition leader in Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi has said she expects her NLD party to win at least 75% of the contested seats in the country’s general election, allowing it to form a government. In her first interview since the vote, Miss Suu Kyi told the BBC the poll was a tribute to the patience and dignity of the Burmese people and showed the world what non-violence could achieve. She was asked if her party, once in power, would prosecute former military leaders for human rights abuses. “I have said that we are not going in for vengeance, and we’re not going in for a series of Nurembergs or anything like that. But people must change their ways, it doesn’t mean that we’ll simply let people get away with what they have been doing for the last 50 years.”

International Reactions

Governments and UN

Monitoring Missions

Media

Derek Tonkin writes: The first indications are that voters have paid little or no attention to the political posturings of the nationalistic Buddhist organisation Ma Ba Tha who clearly favoured the USDP over the NLD. The results should strengthen the hands of those who are opposed to the "hate speech" which has characterised Ma Ba Tha utterances in recent months. In a profoundly Buddhist society which generally supported the four "race and religion" bills, the rejection of Ma Ba Tha political advice is highly significant. A landslide NLD victory would be welcomed by the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State as their best hope of an end to their misfortunes and the stateless limbo in which they have found themselves for the past 25 years.

Thomas Fuller: New York Times - 9 November 2015

The opposition party of the Nobel Peace laureate and longtime political prisoner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that it was confident that it had won large numbers of seats in the country’s landmark nationwide elections, while the ruling military-backed party acknowledged its poor showing.

The election was primarily a contest between the military elites and the democracy movement that the former generals persecuted for more than two decades. The election has unleashed a flurry of emotion among supporters of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, many of whom were jailed during military rule. Voting was largely peaceful.

Although official results will not be complete for days, analysts said the election appeared so one-sided that it seemed plausible that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party could win enough seats in Parliament to choose a president and pass laws without any need for support by the military or its political wing, the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was cautious in her comments to reporters on Monday, but she seemed to hint at big gains in the election, saying voters had “already understood” the result. “The loser must face the loss bravely and calmly, and the winner must be humble and very magnanimous".

Myanmar military still big power despite Opposition victory - Thomas Fuller NYT


Initial Reactions to Expected Results

Derek Tonkin writes: The first indications are that voters have paid little or no attention to the political posturings of the nationalistic Buddhist organisation Ma Ba Tha who clearly favoured the USDP over the NLD. The results should strengthen the hands of those who are opposed to the "hate speech" which has characterised Ma Ba Tha utterances in recent months.  In a profoundly Buddhist society which generally supported the four "race and religion" bills, the rejection of Ma Ba Tha political advice is highly significant. A landslide NLD victory would be welcomed by the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State as their best hope of an end to their misfortunes and the stateless limbo in which they have found themselves for the past 25 years.


Election Day Reports

Nicholas Farrelly: New Mandala - 8 November 015

Today’s vote in Myanmar pits the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party against Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

In one corner is the successor to the old military regime, reincarnated as a civilianised political machine that claims ownership of the reform process. In the other are the long-suffering democratic and ethnic opposition parties, all eager to right the wrongs of history.

Even though a carefully stage-managed general election was held in 2010, and a pivotal by-election in 2012, this is the biggest test of Myanmar’s fragile democratic evolution.

After waiting impatiently, 23 million registered voters now get a real chance to have their say. Read more.....

Derek Tonkin writes: This is increasingly looking like a two-horse race: USDP v. NLD. Most minor parties contesting seats at the national level in the Upper and Lower Houses could be obliterated. Such electoral alliances as there are look shaky.

The NLD might just achieve the 67% total number of elected seats (333 of 498) needed to secure the presidency as the party would then command 51% of all the votes (664) in the Union Parliament. Less than 67% and there is likely to be much hard bargaining ahead. The NLD can count on securing at least 51% of the seats in the Lower House, so that the Lower House candidate, chosen only from elected representatives in the Lower House, is almost certain to be an NLD nominee.

Under the Constitution, the nomination of Suu Kyi herself could see her included as one of three Vice Presidents under Article 60(c), only for her then to be declared ineligible under Article 60(d). I would not exclude the possibility that she might be tempted to manufacture a constitutional crisis by some such dramatic move. There are other options available to her to throw down the gauntlet, such as seeking yet again to amend Article 59(f) of the Constitution which makes her ineligible.

Derek Tonkin - 14 November 2015

Comparisons are understandably being made between the landslide election victories of the National League for Democracy on 27 May 1990 and on 8 November 2015. Both results were very clear expressions of the overwhelming will of the people for fundamental democratic change.

It is however not widely understood that the elections held on 27 May 1990 were not to a governing parliament, but to a constituent assembly. Though no specific legislation was ever issued defining the purpose of the elections, speeches made and press statements released in the months prior to the elections, following the publication of the Election Law on 31 May 1989, left no doubt that it was not the intention of the military government, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to transfer political power to civilian hands immediately after the elections.  

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (who was detained on 20 July 1989 and remained under house arrest until 10 July 1995) fully understood the position in this sense. In her interview with Dominic Faulder of  AsiaWeek on 1 July 1989, she told him: "Whoever is elected will have to draw up a Constitution that will have to be adopted  before the transfer of power. They haven't said how the Constitution could be adopted. It could be through a referendum, but that could take months and months, if not years." ('Freedom from Fear' Chapter 17 Page 225). The detailed evidence is available at this link.

It is true that the SLORC refused to allow the newly elected assembly to meet. But they did so because the NLD were demanding the immediate transfer of power. This the SLORC were not willing to permit. It is not true that the election results were “annulled” or “cancelled”. This did not happen until 8 March 2010 when a new Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower Assembly) Law was promulgated.

The background to these events is set out at this link.

         

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