• Art 1a
  • Art 1
  • Burmatapestry Large

2015 Election Campaign

This page is now archived and will be kept indefinitely for research purposes. Only materials strictly relevant to the November 2015 election campaign will be added. 

Links to Parties and Issues

Elections 2015: Final Analyses

Note: Article 58 of the Myanmar Constitution reads:

"The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar takes precedence over all other persons throughout the Republic of the Union of Myanmar." 

Soe Win Han: New Mandala - 7 November 2016

Genocide allegations have often been used to attract attention on Myanmar issues.

Does the end justify the means? Certainly not to those who know what’s at stake. We all know about the dire situation of the Rohingya, the Muslims in Rakhine who have been disenfranchised.

But at a time of elections when emotions run high, recent genocide allegations from Yale and other institutions, with their obvious errors and outright confrontational tone, may well play a part in worsening the situation, reversing years of trust-building efforts from the United Nations and other stakeholders on the ground.

The most disappointing of recent allegations is the report from Yale, released last week. In their paper, there are several inaccuracies which are intolerably obvious to anyone familiar with the matter. The report glosses over history with cherry-picked sources from human rights groups to “force” certain conclusions. Read more.....

Agence France-Presse: 5 November 2015

"I have said I am going to be above the president,” Suu Kyi said in bullish remarks to reporters ahead of Sunday’s vote, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party hopes to sweep. Asked to elaborate, she cryptically replied: “I have already made plans”.

“I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD,” she told reporters gathered on the lawn of her Yangon home, the same mansion she was confined to during years of house arrest by the former generals.

The Irrawady/Myanmar Now - 4 November 2015

Vimala Buddhi, the abbot of the Myazedi monastery in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, is also the general secretary of the Ma Ba Tha organisation. He is one of the movement’s firebrand monks and well known for his hardline nationalist views.

The abbot’s speech endorsing a second term for the incumbent president Thein Sein at a Ma Ba Tha convention in June was the first overt signal of the increasingly powerful movement’s support for the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

He and the monastery’s 500 monks were once supporters of the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi, Vimala Buddhi told Myanmar Now, but said they switched their allegiance after concluding that the party of ex-generals would better protect the country’s national interest. Read more.....

Derek Tonkin writes: We can only speculate about the extent to which this anti-Suu Kyi rhetoric from the Ma Ba Tha organisation will influence the electorate on 8 November to support the present majority Union Solidarity and Development Party. The level of sophistication of the rural electorate is nowhere near as great as it is in neighbouring Thailand, though in the towns many will have seen through Ma Ba Tha's "race and religion" posturing. The most that can be said is that the negative influence of Ma Ba Tha may have some impact on the land-slide victory at the polls which many have predicted for the National League for Democracy. 

"Opinion polls in Burma are few and far between. Yet from what I’ve been hearing, people are increasingly determined to cast votes of protest and resistance against two pillars of the establishment: the military and the religious nationalists. In this sense, the election can be seen as a contest between the civilian population and the men in uniform (whether the clothes in question are the olive drab of the military or the maroon robes of the militant monks)."

Maung Aung Myoe: ISEAS Perspective No. 62 of 2015 - 3 November 2015

An analysis of likely candidates for election to the Presidency after the 8 November 2015 elections and an assessment of their prospects.

Supporters wave National League for Democracy flags after Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gave a speech at her campaign rally for the upcoming general election in Yangon on November 1. © Reuters 
Richard Horsey: Nikkei Asian Review - 2 November 2015
The exact results of the election are hard to predict - there are no systematic opinion polls, and the first-past-the-post electoral system introduces additional uncertainty. But the broad popular support for Suu Kyi, particularly among the Burman majority, means that the NLD is poised to become the largest party in parliament, probably by a significant margin. The USDP will see a massive decline from its current 70% of elected seats. Minority ethnic parties will do well in their areas, but the sheer number of parties, and Myanmar's complex ethnic mosaic, means that vote splitting will reduce their haul of seats.
Even if it falls short of an outright majority, the NLD is likely to choose the next president when the new parliament votes in February. The president is chosen in a single round of voting among three candidates, so the winning candidate will require less than 50% - probably around 40%, an achievable target for the NLD.....

Suu Kyi has been explicit that in such a scenario she would be the real power behind the throne, saying in early October: "I'm going to be the leader of the government whether or not I'm the president." This is a high-stakes gambit. It subverts Article 59 (f) of the constitution concerning criteria for the presidency and therefore risks further alienating the military. And it will make it all the more difficult for a Suu Kyi administration to govern the country..... 

An Election in Myanmar: Change in the Air
The Economist - 31 October 2015

Reporting from Rakhine State on the elections due to be held on 8 November, the Economist concludes: "The challenges are daunting. The government is valiantly trying to improve a decrepit civil service. Commercial regulations are outdated and haphazardly applied. Transport infrastructure is woeful. In recent years the economy has grown impressively (see chart)—but from a very low base. Myanmar remains poor: GDP per person is just $1,270, compared with $1,670 in Laos, $5,370 in Thailand and $7,380 in China. Visitors to Yangon seldom see this. The city’s skyline is dotted with cranes, its streets are clogged with new cars and a chic bar or eatery seems to open every week. Kyaukphyu in Rakhine state has its traffic jams, too. But they are caused by bullock carts. If a new dawn is breaking in Myanmar, and it is far from clear that one is, it is not evident there.

Latest News and Comment

The Irrawaddy - 21 October 2015

Burma’s military chief has cautioned military personnel and their families to support the “correct” candidates in the Nov. 8 general election and advised a vote for candidates “who can protect race and religion” and is free from foreign influence. Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s remarks, made to a meeting of ranking officers at the Naypyidaw Command, did not mention any specific candidates in his speech. They are likely a reference to National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, who was married to a British national and whose children are British citizens.

“Military members should consider choosing a person who will benefit the country and region, who has the four outlooks - political, economic, administrative and defence - who can safeguard Our Three Main National Causes, who understands and has sympathy for the military, who can correctly and systematically protect race and religion, who is free from any influence of external organizations or foreigners,” said the commander-in-chief at the Tuesday meeting, according to the state-run Myanma Alin newspaper.

Min Aung Hlaing’s pointed reference to race and religion echoes the public advocacy of Ma Ba Tha, the Buddhist nationalist monk organization that successfully pushed the Burmese government to pass a legislative package restricting interfaith marriage, polygamy and religious conversions, as well as giving the government new powers to restrict population growth. The four laws were widely considered to be directed against Burma’s Muslim minority.

Derek Tonkin writes: This reported intervention by the Commander-in-Chief is in contrast to comments made on 9 May 1990, shortly before the 27 May 1990 Elections, by Snr-Gen Saw Maung, Chairman of SLORC  He told a meeting of SLORC and regional Law and Order Restoration Council representatives:

"We are a military government which is paving the way for democracy and establishing law and order. We will hold the elections according to the provisions of the law and rules issued by the Election Commission. The people are to elect according to the laws and rules. Which party wants to come to power? We have no prejudice whatsoever as to which party of person should win. We should not have such prejudice.....Do not assist or support any party. Do not favour any party. Stay neutral and impartial. Guide all parties, organisations and people so that they will not violate the law. Work according to the laws and rules promulgated for the election. Allow everyone to vote freely." [Source: BBC Monitoring Report]

Over a year previously, on 27 March 1989 at the 44th Anniversary Resistance Day parade, Snr-Gen Saw Maung had declared:

"When the multi-party democratic system is practised, all the service personnel including the members of the Tatmadaw should not be involved in the political parties and organizations. We must neither take sides nor encourage any party. We must be upright. We must conscientiously carry out our main duties to the State. But the service personnel including the Tatmdaw members shall have the right to vote for any person he or she desires when the elections are held." [Source: SLORC Chairman's Speeches -Yangon News and Periodicals Enterprise 1990] 

The Irrawaddy - 21 October 2015

Presiential aide Ben Rhodes told reporters at the end of his visit on Tuesday that “there’s a sense of potential insecurity that could lead to violence or instability.”

Beyond the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western Burma, particularly stateless Rohingya Muslims who bore the brunt of communal violence that broke out in 2012, the Obama confidant said he was informed of “activities” and “language” that had become “more extreme in terms of incitement against religious minorities.”

“The result of the election needs to be respected. They [the government] have said that they will respect the result of the election, so they are on the record, that’s the commitment they have made,” Rhodes said on Tuesday in Rangoon, though he was less straightforward about how the United States was prepared to respond if that doesn’t happen.

Myanmar Times: 19 October 2015

A preliminary report on the election media coverage says that only foreign-based broadcasters have provided voters with a plurality of views and diverse information about contestants and other political subjects. Among print media, the study found that state-controlled papers supported the government, while private newspapers supported the opposition National League for Democracy.

The report, issued on October 16 by the Myanmar Institute for Democracy, covers the period from September 8, when campaigning began, to September 28. It presents an analysis of print, online, radio and television coverage of the electoral campaign and the wider political climate, including the activities of the government, the president and the Tatmadaw.

State-owned TV coverage was sternly criticised. “As recipients of public resources, state-funded media have an enhanced duty to ensure balanced and fair treatment of politicians. While MRTV and Myawaddy TV are funded with taxpayers’ money, only activities of state authorities were covered on these channels...[They] largely ignored any views independent of or critical of the current establishment. There is no discussion on social, economic and political problems of the country, with no information to the citizens about consequences of bad government,” the report said. Read more....

Straits Times (AFP/Reuters) - 17 October 2015

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for unity in volatile Rakhine state on Saturday (Oct 17) in an impassioned election rally, tackling head-on bitter religious divisions between Buddhists and Muslims that have shaken the former junta-run nation as some Muslim residents claimed support for her......

"All citizens in the union need to unite... great hatred and fear does not benefit our country," she said, repeating recent assertions that her political opponents had tried to use religion as a tool in campaigns for the Nov 8 polls. "It is very important that all people regardless of race and religion living in our country must be safe," she said. "We can have peace in our country only if the people feel safe both mentally and physically."

Muslim supporters of Ms Suu Kyi said on Saturday they hoped a government led by her National League for Democracy (NLD) would improve their lives in Rakhine, where many still face discrimination after violence in 2012 and 2013.


Democratic Voice of Burma - 16 October 2015

“We are all in a helpless state,” said Kyaw Min, a Muslim politician and chairman of the Democracy and Human Rights Party. “The decisions are arbitrarily made along racial and religious lines.” His party submitted applications for 18 candidates mainly for constituencies in Arakan State in western Burma, which has a sizable population of stateless Rohingya Muslims, but only three were approved as candidates.

In total, UEC figures show that of 6,074 approved candidates in the elections, there are 5,130 Buddhists, 903 Christians and 28 Muslims. Not only are there very few Muslim candidates running in the elections, but most are representing little-known political parties, leaving many with slim chances of winning any seats.

No Postponement of the Elections

Renaud Egreteau: the Diplomat - 9 October 2015
In recent months, it has proven extremely difficult to address the issue with her. Even her close entourage continues to politely sweep the question under the rug.

Aung San Suu Kyi has made no secret of her presidential ambitions. However, in June, the first attempt by her party – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – to amend the constitutional provision that barred her from the presidency, failed. Since then, discussions have quietly emerged about the possibility of the iconic opposition leader jockeying for the House speakership after legislative polls are held this November. Read more.....

New York Times/AP - 8 October 2015
The opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday that if her party triumphed in elections next month she would lead the country from behind the scenes - circumventing a clause in the Constitution that bars her from the presidency. If the Nov. 8 vote is credible, most observers believe that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, will win the most seats in Parliament. By forming a coalition with smaller parties, it could control a majority.

A clause in the 2008 Constitution, drafted when the country was under military rule, prevents Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi from taking the top job because her husband, who died in 1999, was a British citizen, and she has two children who are British citizens. “I’ve made it quite clear that if the N.L.D. wins the elections and we form a government, I’m going to be the leader of that government whether or not I’m the president,” she told the Indian television channel India Today TV.

Sebastian Strangio: The Globe - October 2015

By any account next month’s election in Myanmar will be historic. It will be the country’s first free national ballot since 1990 and the first in which opposition figures, led by the living symbol Aung San Suu Kyi, will be vying in a general election against the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

It will also be the largest election in Myanmar’s history: a complex, kaleidoscopic race that will see 93 parties and 6,189 candidates contest 1,171 constituencies in national and regional parliaments. When Myanmar’s voters go to the polls on November 8, the world will truly be watching.

While the 2015 election will indeed be an important marker on the twisting road out of military rule, the ultimate destination remains far from a foregone conclusion. Indeed, rather than determining one way or the other the success of Myanmar’s so-called democratic “transition” – a word suggesting a natural, even inevitable, process – the poll is likely to give way to a new phase of fragility, contingency and political gymnastics. Read more....

Wirathu endorses ruling party in elections, raps opposition - Reuters

Myanmar’s firebrand Buddhist monk Wirathu has openly endorsed President Thein Sein’s ruling party in the Nov. 8 general election, saying Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party was “full of themselves” and unlikely to win the vote. Hardline monks will push for laws banning Muslim dress and other Muslim customs, Wirathu said Sunday before a rally held by thousands of members of the radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha.

“If we have to choose the best, it is the President Thein Sein’s government,” Wirathu added. “They could open the doors and work step by step for peace and development.” Asked about Wirathu’s remarks, a senior NLD member, Win Htein, said, “He should go to hell ... According to the teachings of Buddha, monks shouldn’t get involved in political affairs. They should be neutral.”

Latest News and Views

Myanmar Times - 28 September 2015

In a statement, the US-based Carter Center has questioned the legitimacy of the candidate scrutiny process that scrubbed more than 100 election hopefuls from the final list. Though the Union Election Commission reinstated 11 Muslim nominees just before the Carter Center released its findings on September 25, 99 candidates continue to be barred from the polls, largely due to the alleged citizenship status of their parents.

“Although the number of disqualified candidates is relatively small, restrictive requirements, selective enforcement, and a lack of procedural safeguards call into question the credibility of the process,” the report stated. Read more.....

The Irrawaddy - 24 September 2015

In an escalating war of words, the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, on Wednesday released a statement calling party patron Tin Oo’s remarks “groundless and detrimental to our activities.”

During a press conference that largely focused on errors to voter lists currently being publically displayed, Tin Oo had said on Monday that “Ma Ba Tha is disturbing the National League for Democracy’s campaigning” by distributing anti-NLD pamphlets.

“Their leading monks personally told their supporters not to vote for the party that is against the Race and Religion Protection Laws. U Wirathu said: ‘I have been watching the NLD.’ I want to ask them why they are saying these things,” Win Htein told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. “Our NLD has had a clear policy not to mix politics and religion since the party was established in 1988,” he added.

Derek Tonkin writes: Ma Ba Tha is increasingly bringing the image of Buddhism and the reputation of Myanmar into international disrepute. As the elections approach, however, the USDP might well ponder on the extent to which Ma Ba Tha's espousal of their cause might turn out to be the kiss of death.

The Irrawaddy - 22 September 2015

The UEC announced on Saturday that two candidates from the National Unity Party, two from the Democracy and Human Rights Party, one from the New National Democracy Party, four from the National Unity Congress Party and two independents would be allowed to contest the poll. Each had their disqualifications repeatedly upheld by various township and district UEC offices.

All those reinstated were initially struck out under Sections 8(b) and 10(c) of the Election Law, which bars candidates from seeking office if they are not citizens, or if they have a parent who was not a citizen at the time of the candidate’s birth.....

The National Congress Party is fielding eight candidates across constituencies in Rangoon and Mandalay. Its four rejected candidates were Pathi, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group granted official recognition in Burma’s 1973 census but excluded from the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.....

The Democracy and Human Rights Party initially fielded 18 candidates for the November poll, all of whom were Muslim. 17 were initially disqualified. Friday’s reinstatement of two candidates will prevent the party from being deregistered under provisions of the Election Law that require political parties to field at least candidates.

Derek Tonkin writes: This is excellent  news. Muslims have not, after all, been totally excluded as election candidates. This will go some, albeit modest way to meeting well-founded Western criticisms of discrimination against Muslim candidates. However, there is no evidence, and little likelihood, of any repeal of the instructions that former White Card holders are not eligible to vote in the elections, though they were in 2010.

The term "Pathi" is seen by some as a generic term given to Burmese Muslims by the Burmese Kings - see paragraph 1.2 of Dr Thein Myint's informative treatise on the Muslim National Identity written in 2012. The evidence though is not conclusive. There is no reference (which I can find) in the 1973 official list of 144 ethnicities to "Pathi", as the article states, but Muslims claiming to be "Pathi" would have been covered by the 139th designated "Burmese-Muslim" in the list, a designation to which the British agreed in 1941 - see paragraph 11 of the document at this reference  - to replace "Zerbadi" and possibly other designations, reportedly in the context of the national Census held that year.

The terms "Pathi" and "Burmese-Muslim" were not specifically excluded from the 1982 Citizenship Act which in Article 3 referred illustratively only to the major eight racial groupings, replicating almost word for word a similar provision in the 1948 Act

Likewise, "Rohingya" is not to be found in the 1973 list, but "Arakan-Chittagonian" is, as are Myedu, Burmese-Chinese, Other-Burmese-Indian and Rakhine-Kaman. "Chittagonian" tout court is also listed as one of several Indian and thus foreign designations. When the 1982 Citizenship Act came into effect, the last known Census list was indeed the 1973 list.

The current list of 135 national races only came into being several years after the Act, initially mentioned by SLORC Chairman Saw Maung in a speech on 5 July 1989 on  the basis of information provided by the Census department and later published in the Burmese edition only of the Working People's Daily of 27 September 1990, as Robert Taylor has recently pointed out in Note 17 of his March 2015 article for ISEAS Perspectives.

NLD needs to lift the standard
Nicholas Farrelly: Myanmar Times - 21 September 2015
Many were baffled when the NLD’s candidate lists were published: Few of the serious ’88 generation players were given a chance to shine. The party also opted to avoid endorsing any Muslim candidates.

Both decisions point to the timidity of the NLD, now so anxious to keep narrow-minded nationalist voters on side they won’t even stand up for basic principles about merit and inclusion.

Instead the party that goes to the 2015 election is a pale facsimile of the one that many of its boosters had imagined. Beyond The Lady’s familiar presence the party has little of the excitement that will lead people to anticipate a new kind of politics for the country. Read more.....

Derek Tonkin writes: A 60-day campaigning period is far too long. People easily get bored with a daily fare of confrontational politics. But at the end of the day, who else to vote for? Much could happen on what happens during the last ten days before the polls open.

Concerns About Burma's Candidate Disqualifications

Press Statement
John Kirby
State Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 17, 2015

The United States is concerned about the disqualification of approximately 100 candidates for Burma’s upcoming general election, with over half of the cases rejected based on questions of citizenship.

We are aware of reports that almost all Muslim candidates have been disqualified - including some current members of parliament - yet the relevant authorities have yet to provide the specific reasons for which they did not meet these criteria.

These elections are vitally important for Burma’s people and its future. However, there are concerns about the constitutional provision that reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military and the disenfranchisement of temporary registration certificate holders. The move to disqualify some 100 candidates, through an opaque and discriminatory process, risks undermining the confidence of the Burmese people and the international community in these elections.

We urge the Burmese authorities to redouble their efforts to address these concerns and ensure that the upcoming elections constitute a step forward for the country.

Derek Tonkin writes: This approach is likely to be far more effective than some local Embassies deciding to issue a joint statement, and others declining to join in.

The Nation (Bangkok) - 15 September 2015
Nine embassies in Myanmar have issued a statement calling for tolerance ahead of the November 8 election. In the statement, they said: "As the campaign in Myanmar officially begins, however, we, as international partners invested in the success of this country and these elections, are concerned about the prospect of religion being used as a tool of division and conflict during the campaign season."

Citing the history of division and civil conflict in Myanmar, they call on all stakeholders - the government, the Union Election Commission, political parties, civic and religious leaders, and citizens alike - to promote a spirit of tolerance, mutual respect, and equality under the law to ensure the elections are peaceful and inclusive. "We call for all election rules and regulations to be applied fairly, consistently, and transparently without regard to ethnicity, religion, or political party." They also affirmed the commitment to support Myanmar and its people during the current election season.

The joint statement was issued by the Embassies of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Norway, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Derek Tonkin writes: Though I strongly support the sentiments expressed, I am not persuaded that this modern trend for Embassies to issue statements on Myanmar's internal affairs is either helpful or effective. In traditional diplomacy, if a matter is thought to be sufficiently serious, then capitals issue such statements while Embassies ensure that the contents are conveyed to the authorities, and given necessary local publicity. If capitals cannot be bothered, it is even less likely that Nay Pyi Taw will take all that much notice. 

As Talleyrand has commented on a diplomat's activity: "Surtout, pas de zèle". No doubt the Embassies of Germany, the EU delegation, Italy, Switzerland and other Western countries which did not participate in this joint statement (and were probably not invited to do so) preferred to keep Talleyrand's gnomic wisdom in mind.

Myanmar Times - 15 September 2015

The National League for Democracy has given voters a glimpse of what an opposition government might ideally look like in their election manifesto.

The broad strokes, 20-page document released yesterday hit all the NLD pet issues, from constitutional reform to implementing a federal system to decentralising finances. While heavy on the buzz words – “transparency”, “development” and “national reconciliation” – the manifesto is light on the concrete practicalities of governance.

The document is split into four main pillars: ethnic affairs and peace, reforming the constitution “to protect the people”, forming a new government system “to protect the people” and free and safe development. Read more.....

Myanmar Times - 14 September 2015

Thura U Shwe Mann came to show voters during his four days of campaigning that despite his sudden ousting as USDP chair he remains loyal to the party. But in the context of an election that might not produce an outright winner, the Speaker also delivered a message of wider cooperation in the cause of national unity. “Our country needs many people who are happy to collaborate with any political party and people for the sake of the country,” said the Speaker, whose conciliatory approach to opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had earned him the ire of party hardliners....

Thura U Shwe Mann is up against candidates from four other parties as well as independents. His comments suggest he has not abandoned his presidential aspirationsHis main rival is likely to be his former classmate U Than Nyunt of the NLD who expressed his total confidence that he would take Phyu, beating the Speaker as well as U Ko Ko Kyaw, Director General of the President Office. U Than Nyunt knows his rivals of the establishment bring more resources and may win the votes of elders and the wealthy elite. But he believes that most among the 180,000 eligible voters will buy the NLD message of “change”, and that his focus on human rights and better transportation will set him apart.

Derek Tonkin writes: The USDP know full well that they overstepped the mark when they called in security forces at the time of Shwe Mann's ouster. But neither Shwe Mann nor his party would see any personal or party interest in conducting a post mortem at this delicate time of the election campaign. What happens after the elections though is a different matter.

Myanmar Times - 14 September 2015

The final list was short 124 rejected candidates, according to the Union Election Commission announcement on September 11. The November’s election, promised to be the most free and fair in over half a century, prompted a deluge of applicants; 6189 potential candidates representing 92 political parties as well as independent pollsters submitted their credentials to the UEC. 

The commission appears not to have reversed any of its decisions on disqualified candidates despite a slew of appeals and accusations that the election body was discriminating against opposition parties and minorities. During the commission’s scrutiny process, complaints regarding Muslim candidates scrubbed from the list came to the fore. Around one-third of those disqualified were Muslim applicants mainly hailing from Rakhine State.

According to the US-based Carter Center, which is monitoring Myanmar’s polls, the exclusion of Muslim residents and the growing anti-Islamic hate speech could undermine the November 8 election, and lead to flare-ups of violence.

New USDP Party Chairman stresses stability, development of the country
Xinhua exclusive interview - 13 September 2015

The New Chairman of Myanmar's ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) U Htay Oo said on Saturday that the party's objective is stability and development of the country.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, U Htay Oo said President U Thein Sein's efforts made in settling domestic armed conflict, realizing lasting peace and developing economy are aimed at achieving stability, peace and development of the country.

Briefing on USDP's status, U Htay Oo said the party would pursue for the country a path of multi-party democracy and adopt a market-oriented economic system.

He highlighted that USDP is a winning party in the 2010 general election with its chairman being elected as the country's president. The government under the leadership of U Thein Sein had brought about remarkable change of the country in the past few years. Read more.....

Khin Zaw Win: Tampadipa Institute Yangon - 10 September 2015
For the first time, social media is going to play a role in Myanmar national elections – the biggest too, in its history. If this represents a technological advance in electioneering, I am afraid the elections lead-up is seeing regressions too. Significantly, wholesale exclusions of Muslim candidates. The National League for Democracy has done it – to its ultimate and enduring discredit. A reflection upon a major party once seen as a champion of democracy and rights but now fallen upon shabby and sordid circumstances of its own making. Then the Union Election Commission – a state and not an independent body – has disqualified dozens of Muslim candidates on grounds of citizenship. Some of the victims are sitting MPs who had contested and won seats in the 2010 elections.
Asia Times/Associated Press - 8 September 2015

On Tuesday, the opposition leader kicked off campaigning for Myanmar’s historic November 8 general election with a Facebook post, one of many signs of how far the country and its most recognisable politician have come in a few years. 

In a video message, the opposition leader called the upcoming elections "a crucial turning point for our country. For the first time in decades, our people will have a real chance of bringing about real change," Suu Kyi said, in a message posted on her party’s Facebook page in Burmese and English. "We hope that the whole world understands how important it is for us to have free and fair elections."
Following is text of message on NLD Facebook:
"The general elections that will be taking place on the eighth of November in Burma will be a crucial turning point for our country. For the first time in decades, our people will have a real chance of bringing about real change. This is a chance that we cannot afford to let slip. We hope that the whole world understands how important it is for us to have free and fair elections, and to make sure that the results of such elections are respected by all concerned.

"A smooth and tranquil transition is almost more important than a free and fair election. To this transition we hope to take our country, to that point where there can be no return from genuine development in the democratic direction. Please help us by observing what happens before the elections, during the elections and crucially after the elections. This is the best contribution you can make to peace and progress in this country, by assuring that our people feel their 'will' has been respected and that their 'will' has been respected in the way of genuine political and governmental change. Thank you."

AP writers Robin McDowell, Jocelyn Gecker, Grant Peck and Elaine Kurtenbach on the key issues at stake

AFP: Mizzima - 7 September 2015
A senior Muslim NLD member told AFP that "not a single Muslim" was among more than 1,000 party candidates for the upcoming elections - the first it has fought for 25 years. Suu Kyi "must be afraid" of the monks, the source said on condition of anonymity. "People see this as religious discrimination. Many Muslims are saying they will not vote," the source added.
The disappointment was evident at Mandalay's historic and bustling Joon Mosque, where trustee Khin Maung Win said local people had long supported the NLD. "It seems Muslims are not accepted at all. In a real democracy, we would have the right to choose," he said. Buddhist hardliners have painted Myanmar's opposition leader as sympathetic to Muslims - a potential Achilles heel in the polls. 

The "shift to the right is very worrying" for Myanmar, said analyst Khin Zaw Win of Yangon-based political think-tank the Tampadipa Institute. "It is a very bad omen for the Muslims of this country."

Derek Tonkin writes: Perhaps Suu Kyi should read "Freedom from Fear" by a well respected democracy icon.

Reuters - 29 August 2015

Myanmar has banned political parties from criticising the army or the military-dominated constitution in state media during campaigning for elections seen as a test of the country's transition from military rule. 

The parties standing in the Nov. 8 elections will be allowed to broadcast 15-minute speeches on state television and radio, according to a statement by the Union Election Commission, and publish them in state-owned newspapers.

But the addresses will be vetted by the commission and the Ministry of Information and could be rejected if officials find that they violate the rules. Statements "that can split the Tatmadaw or that can disgrace and damage the dignity of the Tatmadaw," are banned, said the commission, using the term for the Myanmar military. Parties should also not "disrespect" the 2008 constitution, which reserves 25 percent of parliament and key cabinet posts for the military, giving it an effective veto over politics.

The Irrawaddy - 24 August 2015
Researchers deployed by the Taiwan-based Asian Barometer Survey polled 1,620 respondents across all 14 of Burma’s states and divisions, taking a representative sample of the country at large and asking more than 200 questions on political, economic and social views. Asian Barometer Survey worked with the Yangon School of Political Science to conduct the survey from January to March 2015. Its full results are due to be released later this year.

The survey results are not without surprises:

  • Respondents were almost evenly split on whether the military should retain a role in politics, with 39 percent in favor and 40 percent against.
  • While noting that half of all respondents declined to express a party preference, 24 percent nationwide said they would vote NLD, compared with 16 percent who said they would choose the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
  • Asked to state their preferred president, 26 percent nationwide said Suu Kyi, compared with 16 percent who supported incumbent Thein Sein, though again those declining to answer (54 percent) leave plenty of room for interpretation.
  • Despite their preference for Suu Kyi, 80 percent of respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with Thein Sein’s performance.
  • Asked whether economic development or democracy was more important, 53 percent said the former, compared with 30 percent who preferred the latter.

Myanmar lawmaker barred from re-election on citizenship grounds
Thomas Fuller: New York Times - 23 August 2015
As an elected lawmaker and member of Myanmar’s governing party, U Shwe Maung attended dinners with the president and made speeches from the floor of Parliament. But this weekend, the country’s election commission ruled that despite more than four years in office, he was not a citizen and thus was ineligible to run for re-election in landmark voting in November. “I was approved and considered a full citizen in 2010,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “Now, after five years, how could I not be eligible?”.....

Mr. Shwe Maung’s plight is but one example of what appears to be the mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority who number around one million in Myanmar. David Scott Mathieson, a Myanmar expert with Human Rights Watch, called the exclusion of the Rohingya “a dark cloud over the democratic integrity of the elections over all. This is the government really stripping them of their last right,” Mr. Mathieson said. “It suits the government’s long-term plan of compelling them to leave.”

Voter registration lists released by the election commission in June showed that more than 500,000 Rohingya had vanished from the rolls, Rohingya activists say.

Derek Tonkin writes: As the election approaches, we may expect more Kafkaesque moments of this kind. The NLD's electoral denial of the Student Generation Group and the purge  of Thura Shwe Mann are two more such moments.

Over 6,000 candidates register to run in the Elections
Xin Hua (China) - 21 August 2015
A total of 6,189 people have registered to run the upcoming general election in Myanmar set for Nov. 8, according to a preliminary candidate list announced by the Union Election Commission (UEC) on Friday.

Of the total, 5,866 were nominated from 93 political parties while 323 will run as independents, the commission said.

Of the 5,866 political party candidates, 1,134 were from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) led by U Htay Oo, while 1,151 were from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Of the 1,134 USDP candidates, 318 will contest for seats in the House of Representatives (Lower House), 165 in the House of Nationalities (Upper House) and 651 in the Region or State Parliaments.

Of the 1,151 NLD candidates, 325 will seek seats in the Lower House, 167 in the Upper House and 659 in the Region or State Parliaments.

The National Unity Party (NUP) will field the third-highest number of candidates with 763 -- 208 for the Lower House, 98 for the Upper House and 457 for the Region or State Parliaments.

Impeachment Bill defeated in Parliament

National League for Democracy shuns pro-democracy activists
Reuters - 2 August 2015
The party of Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected bids by 17 members of Myanmar’s respected “88 generation” to join its ranks and contest November’s election, a controversial omission of a group that was expected to galvanise its bid to dominate the ballot. The National League for Democracy (NLD) party selected only one member of the popular crop of activists, who suffered years of persecution after leading nationwide student protests in 1988 that were brutally crushed by the ruling military. Their rebellion mushroomed into a pro-democracy uprising that thrust Suu Kyi, the daughter of late independence hero Aung San, into Myanmar’s political spotlight.

The most high-profile exclusion was the charismatic protest leader Ko Ko Gyi, who spent more than 17 years in and out of prison before his 2012 release. He declined to comment. Party spokesman Nyan Win said it was the prerogative of the NLD’s central executive committee to choose who it wanted for its members of parliament. “We are choosing the most suitable MPs for the country,” he said. “Everyone have the right to apply as candidates, but the committee need to choose the best people.”

Among those absent from the list were the Aung Thu, the rector of Yangon University and a democracy activist who is pushing for education reform, and Nyo Nyo Thin, a prominent lawmaker in the Yangon regional parliament. Political analyst and National Youth Congress member Thet Swe Win said the NLD’s exclusion of most 88 generation applicants would fragment the pro-reform camp.

Derek Tonkin writes: The NLD's selection of candidates reflects the innate authoritarianism of the party. Local NLD branches would seem to have had little say about who is to represent them. This was also a feature of the April 2012 by-elections. Suu Kyi personally is likely to have been closely involved in the selection of NLD candidates. The 88 Student Group Generation and the NLD worked harmoniously on constitutional reform, but the former may now feel inhibited about providing electoral support for the NLD. Those still wishing to stand for parliament have little time left to join other parties or stand as independents. However, the initial deadline for registration as candidates of next Saturday 8 August has just been extended by a week because of the flooding in Myanmar.

In the opinion of the Institute for Government in the UK, and by way of comparison, the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all reformed their internal processes in recent years for selecting parliamentary candidates, often in highly innovative ways. In so doing, each party has sought to achieve some combination of the following objectives:

  • Increasing the diversity of parliamentary candidates;
  • Enhancing public participation and engagement in politics;
  • Ensuring that candidates have the requisite skills and competencies;
  • Minimising conflict between party leaders and grassroots members.

Thein Sein eyes second term and more reforms
Gwen Robinson and Thurein Hla Htway: Nikkei Asian Review - 30 July 2015
Myanmar's President Thein Sein signaled that he intends to pursue his ambitious reform program beyond national elections in November to the end of his current term in early 2016, and rejected recent charges that reforms had stalled and the process was backsliding. In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review on Wednesday, the president confirmed a change in his earlier intention to retire after his current term, saying he would be willing to serve a second presidential term. That, however, would depend on "the country's situation, the prevailing circumstances and wishes of the people," he noted, outlining far-reaching goals for the final phase of his current term.

Among what he described as top priorities in the final stages of his government, Thein Sein gave the strongest indication so far of confidence that a nationwide ceasefire agreement could be finalized with ethnic armed groups before the Nov. 8 poll. He also outlined plans to deepen Myanmar's diplomatic ties with neighboring countries and step up economic development focusing on the manufacturing sector - particularly small and medium enterprises - alongside a new push to move the country away from raw materials exports toward value-added production.

"I don't agree that our democratic reforms have stalled or are back-sliding," he said at the presidential palace in the capital, Naypyitaw. On the role of the Tatmadaw, or Myanmar's armed forces, Thein Sein predicted a natural reduction of the military's role in parliament and politics as peace is restored.

Read full interview here (two sections)

From icon to politician: Aung San Suu Kyi’s choice
Roman David and Ian Holliday: Lowy Interpreter – 23 July 2015
The writers argue that “Suu Kyi needs to make a choice: whether to seek power by working with the diverse constituencies needed to stitch together a winning coalition in the coming election, or to promote tolerance by holding firm to the core values with which she has long been associated.”

They note in particular:

  • A representative survey we conducted in the final two months of 2014 in Myanmar's two main regions (Yangon and Mandalay) and three of its ethnic states (Kachin, Kayin and Shan) confirmed that her domestic support remains solid.
  • She is trusted by almost two-thirds of respondents, building clear majorities among men and women, urban and rural dwellers, and the well and poorly educated.
  • Across ethnic groups and in distinct parts of the country there is also trust for Suu Kyi. Moreover, the National League for Democracy (NLD; which remains her political vehicle) was selected by 52% of prospective voters, leaving far behind the governing (and military-backed) Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with 19%, as well as ethnic parties grouped together with 23%.
  • The now notorious Article 59f of the military-authored 2008 constitution denies presidential or vice-presidential office to citizens with close family members who 'owe allegiance to a foreign power'. While in the Western world this provision is viewed as straightforwardly perverse, the situation inside Myanmar is more complicated. Although 39% dislike the clause, 25% wish to keep it and 36% are undecided.
  • 78% said they would not want to have a Rohingya neighbour and 12% did not know.
  • 63% supported the controversial interfaith restriction law and 21% did not know. [Note: In late 2014 when the survey was made the only interfaith restriction law on the statute book was The Buddhist Womens' Special Marriage and Succession Act 32/1954. The writers may refer to the then planned laws on marriage and conversion which have yet to be finally enacted.]
  • She is content to cede ground to radical Buddhist monks, possibly cognizant of the fact that with 72% trust among fellow citizens, they outrank her in public support.

“The core problem she faces is that her popularity derives from her long-standing identification with democratic reform, rather than from her (assumed) support for ethnic and religious tolerance. But with leading Buddhist monks mobilising behind an agenda of narrow religious and nationalist identity, it could be that she will be forced to take a clear stand on this divisive matter.

“With Myanmar's 8 November election looming, Suu Kyi's calculus seems unlikely to change. Yet as political positions firm up, spreading intolerance is fast becoming the most urgent social issue. The role of outsiders in picking up the human rights mantle largely shrugged off by Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to take on growing significance as Myanmar edges closer to its election.”

Derek Tonkin writes: This article merits close and careful reading. It is among the most perceptive I have read in recent months, and the results of the survey conducted in late 2014 lend weight to its conclusions. It may be too much to expect that Suu Kyi could revert to the role of democracy icon, but her prospects for the presidency look slim in the shorter term even if the NLD win a majority of elected seats and I doubt that she would be attracted by the necessary constraints inherent in the role of Lower House Speaker, which is physically very demanding.

Myanmar's strongman gives rare BBC interview
Jonah Fisher: BBC News Asia - 19 July 2015
In a rare interview, Myanmar's commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing tells the BBC that the military will not step back from politics until a peace deal is reached with all the country's ethnic armed groups - but it will respect the results of the forthcoming general election even if the opposition win. 

Derek Tonkin writes: In 1990, foreign correspondents reporting on the 27 May elections without exception recognised that they were for a Constituent Assembly and not for a governing parliament. It was no surprise to them that the Military Council (SLORC) declined to hand over power to the National League for Democracy, as they demanded. The background to the 1990 elections is explained at this link.

The lose-lose election
Banyan: The Economist - 18 July 2015
"Understandably, many potential foreign investors are biding their time, waiting to see what kind of political order emerges. Yet among many Burmese politicians and analysts, the mood is far from euphoric. The fear is that the election will not be the happy culmination of democratic reforms. Rather, it will usher in a period of acute uncertainty and unpredictable political horse-trading. It will also disappoint almost everyone.....

"If the election yields another government dominated by retired soldiers and beholden to serving ones, disillusionment may be intense. Yet it was always delusional to believe that Myanmar would become a proper democracy in less than five years. For all its flaws it remains a more hopeful place than under the old junta, which locked up and tortured thousands of political prisoners. In the coming months that hope will be sorely needed."

President undecided about seeking a second term
Associated Press - 14 July 2015
Myanmar President Thein Sein has not yet decided whether to pursue a second term but will base his decision on how the ruling party fares in parliamentary elections later this year, his office said Tuesday.

The president's office denied a news report that quoted an anonymous official as saying Thein Sein would not run in November's parliamentary elections due to health concerns.

"The president has already said that he will decide whether to run for a second term or not based on the wishes of the people and election results," Zaw Htay, the director of the president's office, told The Associated Press, adding that his stance remains unchanged.

"It all depends on circumstances," Zaw Htay said.

Thein Sein says he will not run for a second term
Reuters: 13 July 2015
Myanmar President Thein Sein has decided not to run in a parliamentary election scheduled for Nov. 8, a senior official from his office said on Monday, meaning he will not be eligible for a second term as head of state.

“The president wrote a letter to U Shwe Mann, chairman of the ruling USDP Party, that he will not run in the next general election because of his health condition,” the official told Reuters, asking not to be named.
Derek Tonkin writes: In fact, presidential candidates do not have to be elected representatives. An amendment to the Constitution to make this necessary was recently defeated. However, the President's letter is very probably an indication that he does not wish to seek a second term. 

As for NLD declared intentions, they will be able to secure a presidential candidate nomination only if they have sufficient support in the Lower or Upper Hluttaw (Chamber). 
Andrew McLeod: BBC News Asia - 10 July 2015
Extract: The two votes on constitutional change are better understood as political theatre, engineered by the pragmatic presidential candidate and current Speaker, Thura Shwe Mann, quite possibly with Ms Suu Kyi's knowledge and consent. 

The military has consistently made clear that it is not in favour of constitutional change and both Ms Suu Kyi and Mr Shwe Mann know this. In allowing the two constitutional amendment bills to come to a vote, Mr Shwe Mann and Ms Suu Kyi have forced military lawmakers to make their position public and unequivocal in the same week that the date of the general election was announced. 

For Mr Shwe Mann, this creates distance between him and the military regime of which he was a leader until 2011.

For Ms Suu Kyi, it simplifies her message to the electorate: "The military is holding up reforms - a vote for me is a vote for change".

Myanmar's president is not popularly elected, with an electoral college formed from national parliamentarians voting to choose the president and two vice-presidents.

If Ms Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), secure the electoral success expected in November's polls, the pressure on the military to alter the constitution and allow her to become president will be high. 

Andrew McLeod is a Research Fellow in Law at the University of Oxford and directs the Oxford Burma/Myanmar Law Programme. For the past two years, he has advised the parliamentary committees reviewing Myanmar's constitution.

Democratic Voice of Burma - 8 July 2015
Burma’s general election will be held on Sunday, 8 November, the Union Election Commission (UEC) announced today.

Late last week, the UEC announced that the constituencies for this year’s general election would be the same as those marked for the polls in 2010, with a total of 1,142 MPs to be elected for both houses of parliament and the regional assemblies.

In an official announcement dated 1 July, the UEC said 330 constituencies were confirmed for the lower house, 168 for the upper house, and 644 for regional parliaments. A further 29 regional seats will be appointed to national race representatives.

Prior to Election Day, political parties will have a period of 60 days for campaigning.
Bangkok Post Special Report by Larry Jagan - 7 June 2015
Larry Jagan reviews the prospects for the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the forthcoming elections due in November 2015 and qute possibly on Sunday 22 November. Points include:
  • Many people are going to vote for the Lady, rather than the party, most NLD executive members concede.

  • “There won’t be a landslide victory for the NLD this time,” warns Zarganar, a renowned comedian and former political prisoner. The NLD is just like Manchester United, shouting and parading around in their red shirts, he mused.

  • Analysts are less optimistic in their assessment of the NLD’s electoral chances. Most believe the party can only expect to win some 40% of the seats..... 

  • The USDP has been working in the constituencies for more than two years to convince people that it deserves another term in office, according to senior party leaders. 

  • Battle lines are being drawn within the USDP that could erupt into open warfare in the near future.

  • Shwe Mann is confident he has the numbers to get the top job this time around, according to sources close to the Speaker.

  • According to the recent results from a survey conducted in Yangon by a local business analysis company, 65% of the population still don't know who they will vote for. 

Derek Tonkin writes: At this stage, any reporting is bound to be speculative, but Larry Jagan has the experience and contacts needed to write a credible and entertaining story. In Myanmar, though, always expect the unexpected.

Democratic Voice of Burma - 1 June 2015
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) chairperson and Speaker Shwe Mann warned his party members against “blind patriotism” when he spoke at the party’s fourth central committee meeting on Sunday 31 May.

During the conference Shwe Mann was appointed by the party’s leaders to take charge of an election campaign committee.

USDP mouthpiece the Union Daily newspaper reported on Monday that the parliamentary speaker told party members to be patriotic, but to refrain from blind patriotism and dogmatism.

“In order to secure victory in the elections, it is important to win the people’s trust and we must ensure that we have the people on our side. I want to say that we need to be patriotic but at the same time be cautious of blind patriotism."

The Irrawaddy - 27 May 2015
Ahead of much-anticipated elections late this year, Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has launched an Information Center in Rangoon and a new website where eligible voters can check their names against voting lists compiled by the commission.
At an opening ceremony on Tuesday, UEC chairman Tin Aye said the Information Center would allow interested parties to access elections-related data faster and more conveniently in Rangoon, where most of the country’s political parties, civil society groups and media outlets are based, according to a UEC press release.
The chairman said that through the center, updated documents and information about the election would be made available, including relevant laws and regulations, orders and instructions issued by the UEC, and materials on the commission’s operations.

The Myanmar Times - 26 May 015
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the government to convene an urgent session of six-way talks to discuss amendments to Myanmar's constitution, while questioning whether there is a commitment to hold parliamentary elections on time.

Addressing a rally in Putao in Kachin State on May 23, the National League for Democracy leader accused the government of having no desire to hold another session of the talks, which were last held on April 10 and resulted in a commitment to meet again in the first 10 days of May. "The NLD wants to amend the constitution in parliament and we are trying to do it. Some people don't want to amend certain sections. So we try to negotiate amendments through discussions in the six-way talks. But I don't see any sign of the next six-way talks."

"People worry whether the NLD will contest the election. The 2015 election is very important for the future of Myanmar," she said, receiving a warm welcome from a crowd of about 1000 mostly ethnic Kachin supporters. "I cannot say exactly if the government will hand over power if the NLD wins the elections," she said, speaking just days before the anniversary of the 1990 elections, which resulted in a landslide NLD victory that the military junta refused to recognise.

Derek Tonkin writes: Under the present Constitution, the President elected by an electoral college of both Houses forms the Administration. Unless the Constitution is changed, the outgoing President would not "hand over power" to the election winners or coalition, or indeed to anyone else.

In July 1989, prior to the May 1990 Elections, Suu Kyi told Dominic Faulder of Asia Week (recorded in Suu Kyi's book "Freedom from Fear" Pages 224-225):

"Whoever is elected will first have to draw up a constitution that will have to be adopted before the transfer of power. They haven't said how the constitution will be adopted. It could be through a referendum, but that could be months and months, if not years. That's why provisions for the transfer of power are so important. Unless we know how it will take place, we can't really trust the SLORC to set up a democratically elected government."

Suu Kyi's 1989 analysis of the then military council's electoral intentions was correct. The council had indeed made it clear prior to the elections, as Suu Kyi said, that those elected "will first have to draw up a constitution". In large measure that explains why power was not handed over to the NLD immediately after their landslide victory in the May 1990 elections.
The paper at this link examines electoral intentions as perceived by analysts and international correspondents in 1990. The military council declared the results of the elections and recognised the elections as having been validly held. The dispute which ensued related to what their purpose had been and thus what the next steps should be. The papers at this link examine the matter further.
Democratic Voice of Burma  - 22 May 2015
Burma's Union Election Commission (UEC) chairperson has confirmed that a first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system will be used for the upcoming general elections slated for later this year.
At a meeting with President Thein Sein and political party representatives in Rangoon on Monday, Tin Aye said the UEC's deadline of the end of April for a decision to be made by parliament on a potential change to a proportional representation (PR) system had expired.
"We will continue to use the FPTP system in the upcoming elections for both the upper and lower houses of the parliament, and also for regional parliaments.
The Myanmar Times - 15 May 2015
As the remaining time to change the constitution before the election ticks away, Thura U Aung Ko, a central executive committee member of the ruling USDP, hinted that no major changes will be made to the constitution during the current government's term.

Speaking to journalists during a break in the parliamentary session of May 13, he said, "Everybody knows that changes to section 436 are 99 percent impossible. The government doesn't want to change it," he said.

Change might not even come under the next government, to be formed early next year following elections in November, Thura U Aung Ko warned. "It's going to take a long struggle.".....

The long process of constitutional amendment is a catalogue of missed deadlines. In January, a draft amendment bill proposing changes to sections of the charter, including 59(f), which bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from being eligible for the presidency, was submitted to hluttaw [Lower House].

However, Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann has not yet tabled the bill for debate. MPs have supported that decision, saying no significant changes to the 2008 constitution can be made until an agreement is reached among the main political players.

AFP/Democratic Voice of Burma - 8 May 2015
Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday praised the "co-operative spirit" of political rival Shwe Mann, after the powerful parliament speaker - tipped as a potential presidential candidate - said he is open to an alliance with the opposition leader.
Suu Kyi is expected to lead her party to victory at elections slated for November, but she is currently barred from Burma's top job because of a junta-era constitution apparently written explicitly to exclude her.
As no other opposition figure has yet emerged to stand for the post, which will be selected by parliament following the general election, there has been widespread speculation that the Nobel laureate would opt to forge an alliance with the speaker, despite his previous position as the former junta's number three.

Reuters - 1 May 2015
The chairman of Myanmar's ruling party said on Friday he would stand as national president if nominated, and was willing to cooperate with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, or anyone working in the interests of the country.
Shwe Mann, the speaker of Myanmar's parliament, also told a Washington think tank his party had "aspirations" to change the military-dominated constitution, but indicated time was running short ahead of November general elections.
His Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is comprised largely of former military officers and was created from a social movement set up by the former junta.
Asked if would run as president if nominated, Shwe Mann, in Washington to meet U.S. officials and congressional leaders, replied: "Of course, if the USDP nominated me as a presidential candidate, I would be happy to accept."
Asked if he would be willing to enter a coalition with National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred under the constitution from standing as president because she was married to a foreigner, Shwe Mann said they were "very good friends with each other. At the same time we could be very good competitors!
"You are raising the question whether there is the possibility of forming a coalition government after the elections. Of course ... for the interests of the country and the people, I am ready to cooperate with (her) today, tomorrow and in the future," he added, speaking through a translator.
Derek Tonkin writes: Myanmar has a non-party presidential style executive goverment. Shwe Mann was no doubt referring to cooperation in the legislature, but many in the audience might not have understood this.

Yonhap (South Korea) - 29 April 2015
Myanmar should consider a presidential bid from the country's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from a point of national interest, not individual, its parliamentary speaker said Wednesday. The remarks by U Khin Aung Myint, the upper chamber speaker of Myanmar's bicameral legislature, are seen as indirect opposition to ongoing efforts for constitutional revision to allow Suu Kyi to run for president later this year.
The democracy icon of the Southeast Asian country is currently banned from the elections as the constitution prohibits anyone with offspring of foreign nationality from running for president. Her sons have British citizenship. "We should look at this problem not from the point of one individual, but from the point of the national interest of the country as a whole," said the speaker, a member of the six-party talks on constitutional reform, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "In the process of transforming democracy, there should not be an emphasis on one or another person over the process of deciding the fate of the country as a whole."
Derek Tonkin writes: Even so, the possibility of finessing a presidential bid by Suu Kyi should not be rejected as impossible, however unlikely it might appear. The nationality of her late husband has no relevance today, and her two sons may well have latent Myanmar nationality, even if their passports were invalidated. The civil and national status of their two partners is at present unclear. 
International Crisis Group - Brussels 28 April 2015
Myanmar is preparing to hold national elections in early November 2015, five years after the last full set of polls brought the semi-civilian reformist government to power. The elections, which are constitutionally required within this timeframe, will be a major political inflection point, likely replacing a legislature dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), established by the former regime, with one more reflective of popular sentiment. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party of Aung San Suu Kyi is well-placed to take the largest bloc of seats. 

Derek Tonkin writes: This briefing by the ICG provides an excellent guide to the background to the general elections planned for November 2015 and of the issues and political parties involved. It merits careful reading and retention for reference as the elections approach.

Elections 2015: Two interviews with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Andrew C Marshall and Simon Webb: Reuters - 3 April 2015
In an interview on Friday, the Nobel laureate told Reuters that her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party was "ready to govern" but that President Thein Sein was insincere about reform and might try to postpone the election.
While scathing about what she called Thein Sein's "hardline regime", Suu Kyi emphasised the need to reconcile with the military which detained her for 15 years until her release from house arrest in 2010. 
"We don't think that boycotting the election is the best choice," said Suu Kyi, when asked whether her party would run with the constitution unchanged. "But we're not ruling it out altogether. We are leaving our options open.".....
Suu Kyi said she questioned U.S. praise of Myanmar's government in the hopes of encouraging further reforms. "I would ask whether it actually encourages them to do more or it simply makes them more complacent," she said. "The United States and the West in general are too optimistic and a bit of healthy scepticism would help everybody a great deal." Read more....
Nathan Vanderklippe - Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“I’ve always been a politician. I’ve never said that I was a moral organization or anything like that,” she told The Globe and Mail in an interview Friday in the Myanmar capital. Ms. Suu Kyi has face withering disapproval over her unwillingness to offering a strong repudiation of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya.....
Ms. Suu Kyi has sought to occupy the middle ground. “The Muslims are a minority” in Rakhine state, where violence continues to plague relations between the two sets of people. “But the Buddhists feel they are a minority in the world, that there’s a huge Muslim world community which is against their Rakhine Buddhists. And it’s a perception – but in matters like that, perceptions are as effective as facts,” she said Friday, speaking in a meeting room of the Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee, which she chairs, in the country’s sprawling parliamentary complex. She said she doesn’t believe good will come out of condemning either side. Read more.....
Reuters - 24 March 2015
A senior member of Myanmar's government has said members of the US-based Carter Center and the European Union will be invited to monitor a general election later this year, the first time in at least 65 years that the country will call in Western poll observers.
"We'll allow the Carter foundation and EU to observe the upcoming general election independently to ensure the election takes place free and fair," Soe Thein, a senior minister at the president’s Office, said at a forum on Monday. "It will be the first general election held under a democratically elected government in many years."
UK Government website - 3 March 2015
The Embassies of Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America warmly welcome the political reforms that have occurred in Myanmar, particularly the Myanmar Government's announcement that a general election will be held in late 2015. The election will be an important milestone in Myanmar's transition to democracy and an opportunity to reaffirm to the world its commitment to political reform. As development partners, we are supporting Myanmar's efforts to prepare for the elections.

The 2015 elections is the responsibility of the Myanmar government in partnership with its people, and its success will be measured by the integrity of the electoral process and an outcome that reflects the will of the people of this country. Credible, transparent, and inclusive electoral processes require long-term engagement with all stakeholders throughout the electoral cycle. We understand that building confidence in an election starts well before Election Day and includes confidence in the integrity of international election support. Read more.....

Derek Tonkin writes: Technical support for the 2015 elections is laudable, but eyebrows are likely to be raised over any support to political parties, even if such support "will continue to be offered equitably" in the words of the joint statement.

As a matter of diplomatic practice and principle, no diplomatic mission in Myanmar should be contemplating such assistance at all. This raises the question whether the text was cleared with governments  in capitals or not before it was released. It also invites the question: if support will continue to be given, what support has already been provided? 

Probably this is no more than a diplomatic gaffe, a case of infelicitous drafting, but it does highlight the risks of diplomatic missions seeking to coordinate public policy at post instead of first  securing statements from governments in capitals before going on record at post. It is not surprising in the circumstances that other diplomatic missions in Myanmar like the French, Italian and German Embassies have not subscribed to this imprudent public statement.

Oren Samet: Democratic Voice of Burma - 28 February 2015
In late November, after months of debate, the upper house of Burma's parliament voted to change the method for electing its MP. This decision may well determine the balance of power in parliament following the 2015 general election.

The decision was to switch from a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, in which candidates run in single-member districts, to a form of proportional representation (PR), which will elect batches of candidates in multi-member districts corresponding to states and divisions. It is unclear if the Union Election Commission will be able to successfully implement the new system for elections less than nine months away

National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition politicians requested that Burma's Constitutional Tribunal issue a ruling on the change, but indications suggest that the revised system will remain in place for the 2015 vote. The implications of this new system on electoral outcomes are not entirely clear. The limited availability of polling and other data makes it difficult to predict the specific result of the change, particularly given its restricted nature. Read more.....

Derek Tonkin writes: A lot of common sense in these two balanced assessments by (Mr) Oret Samet, an independent Thai journalist and researcher who was previously a Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC.  I would have thought though that the Upper House vote still needs to be approved by the Union Parliament and then signed into law by the President.

Simon Roughneen: Nikkei Asian Review - 27 February 2015
Han Tha Myint, a member of the party's central committee, has told the Nikkei Asian Review that the National League for Democracy is considering faster banking liberalization, leasing government land to investors to encourage manufacturing, and moving swiftly to quell destabilizing labor unrest. But reforms had stalled in recent months because of continuing close links between members of the USDP and businessmen granted monopolies over lucrative sectors when the military was in charge.

The NLD says it is happy with the mechanism for awarding contracts to foreign companies. However, problems remain with the rules requiring foreign energy companies to team up with a local counterpart. "The domestic side is not transparent," he said. "There is a list of the companies who can work with the foreign investor. Nobody can say how they choose these companies, or how this allotment came about."
The NLD wants to clean up the last of the sharp practices it sees in the natural resources sector. But it also wants to see investment oriented away from oil and gas and into manufacturing to provide jobs for some of the estimated 37% of the population who are unemployed.
Derek Tonkin writes: The NLD has been criticised in the past for being too vague about its planned programmes and election policies. Han Tha Myint's revelations would suggest that the NLD would like to be more proactive and creative in this sphere.
Nicholas Farrelly: Mizzima - 23 January 2015
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is often criticised for her inability to adjust to new challenges. To her credit, since she was released from house arrest in late 2010 she has made great strides as a political player. Her speeches are on topic and her campaign tactics are better than ever.

But she needs the people of Myanmar to put their faith in her. That is also why she has been so reluctant to court controversy. Human rights activists can judge her harshly for her inability to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya or Kachin.

Yet, sadly, there are no votes to be won in taking a bold stand on these issues, and millions may be lost. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – after all her sacrifices and those of her party – cannot afford to let that happen.

Derek Tonkin writes: a perceptive and realistic analysis of the prospects for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy at the General Elections later this year. "It makes sense to temper hopes of a democratic stampede". An incremental approach to power would seem to be her best strategy.

Myanmar committed to hold free, fair election in 2015
Xin Hua - 1 January 2015
Myanmar President U Thein Sein reiterated the country's pledge in his New Year message on Thursday, the first day of 2015, to hold free and fair general election in the year, and called  for cooperation and support not only from the administration but also from security forces, political parties, civil society and the general public as a whole.

"We will hold the 2015 general election in the coming year which will serve as one of the most critical steps in our democratic transition process," U Thein Sein said in his monthly radio speech to the nation Thursday.

He noted that the 2015 election will mark the first time since independence in which all the political stakeholders will contest freely and fairly. "In this way 2015 will be a remarkable year in Myanmar politics as it will be shaped by the election and by the efforts of all political stakeholders to find the right solution through the electoral process."

The president said that it is critical and imperative to merge the political development with the national reconciliation process. "The day we can do this is the day we can begin to build a new nation based on the ideals of a federal union and finally fulfill the need of our nation and society at large," he said. "A successful 2015 election in conjunction with the initiation of the political dialogue process based on and grounded in nationwide ceasefire agreements marks a critical juncture in Myanmar politics."

Speaking of Myanmar's economy status, U Thein Sein said the country was able to establish an investor friendly environment, leading to an increase in foreign investment by 6.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2014. He revealed that Myanmar is planning to launch the Yangon Stock Exchange in 2015 , gradually introducing a public investment market. The Central Bank of Myanmar will sell government bonds through tender offer in January 2015, the president said.

Suu Kyi says 'too early' to commit to 2015 election
Reuters - 30 December 2014

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on the government on Tuesday to hold a transparent election next year and said her party was waiting for a poll date to be set before deciding whether to run.

The Nobel laureate said it was "too early" to commit, when asked at a news conference if her party would contest the ballot scheduled for the end of 2015.

"As I'm not an astrologer, I cannot say what the situation will be," she said. "I'm just a politician. As politicians we can calculate, but we can't assume the situation will happen as we calculate."

Derek Tonkin writes: As usual, Suu Kyi's latest pronouncement is unlikely to have been made in consultation with the Central Executive Committee of the NLD. On the other hand, she can be reasonably sure that she will not be contradicted by anyone of consequence in the Party.

Join hands to prevent violence and conflict
President Thein Sein's monthly radio message - 2 October 2014
Extract: "The peace building process is fundamental to sustaining the reforms, and I stress to all sides - the government, parliament, Tatmadaw, political parties, and the ethnic armed groups - that this process is now at a crucial juncture. Just as a marathon runner must exert the most energy as the finish line draws near, the sides must now also summon up all their efforts to conclude the nationwide ceasefire agreement.

"The goodwill, patience, understanding, and focused efforts of all the political groups are essential now. At the same time, only when the nationwide ceasefire agreement is concluded successfully, can we start political dialogue to shape the country’s future. This dialogue will ensure stability, successful holding of the 2015 general elections, and smooth continuation of political reforms. I especially urge that we set aside personal, party, and political differences and instead focus on sustaining the momentum of political reforms."

Derek Tonkin writes: The dialogue proposed could clearly take time to complete.  Would it be reasonable to assume that only with the completion of the dialogue will the next general elections, technically due around November 2015, in fact be held?

President signs amendment to Party Registration Law
Myanmar Times - 2 October 2014
President U Thein Sein has signed off on a controversial amendment to an electoral law that will ban “temporary citizens” from forming or joining political parties. 

The bill to amend the Political Parties Registration Law was sent to the President’s Office on September 26, after being approved by both houses of parliament, said U Myint Soe, a deputy director general in the hluttaw office in Nay Pyi Taw. It was signed into law three days later, he said.

While the bill applies to all parties and religious and ethnic communities in Myanmar, it is in effect part of a larger battle over the political rights of Muslims in Rakhine State who identify as Rohingya but are officially regarded as Bengalis.

Myanmar's man to watch
The Nation - 11 September 2014
Sources say that military chief Min Aung Hlaing is preparing a bid for the presidency - is the return of junta rule just around the corner? People in Myanmar are accustomed to keeping a close eye on their generals. It seems like a reasonable habit when you consider that the military ruled what was then called Burma for more than five decades, relinquishing its absolute control over politics only recently. Even today, despite three years of liberalising reforms, high-ranking officers retain considerable sway.

So you can hardly blame people for sitting up and taking notice earlier this week, when a local weekly published details of a speech made by Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the speech, he declared, among other things, that the military is "afraid of no one". Just in case someone didn't get the message, he also noted that "the Tatmadaw [Myanmar's armed forces] will always follow policies set by retired Senior General Than Shwe". Than Shwe was, of course, the head of the ruling military junta in Myanmar from 1992 to 2011. Continue reading..... 

In defence of proportional representation
Khin Zaw Win: The Irrawaddy - 12 August 2014
"Myanmar is coming to a turning point in its elections system and we are a little short on time. Therefore I think it is important to present non-party views that are specific to Myanmar’s situation, in an effort to defuse feelings which are running high and to allay suspicions, and thereby alleviate the divisiveness. It is not going to be a case of PR being forced upon the country: A parliamentary process has been set in motion, committees on PR have been formed in both Houses, and debates have taken place......

"PR is not a hard-and-fast system; indeed there is an inexhaustible list of variations, hybrids and custom-tailored versions. Combinations with FPTP are commonly employed. And that is why an en bloc dismissal of PR can only come from incomplete understanding and vested/parochial interests......

"PR is not to be regarded as a panacea and a cure-all. Let me put it this way—it is a means to be kinder to ourselves, to our fellow citizens and non-citizens, and to our troublous country. Ten years from now, we could look back and feel grateful that PR was adopted."

Election Commission to consider extending campaign period
Radio Free Asia  - 6 August 2014
The Union Election Commission stated in a July 1 directive that it had settled upon campaign rules, which it said would ensure a free and fair election, including limiting parties to campaigns beginning 30 days before the election, and prohibiting them from canvassing on the day before the polls, according to a report by the 'Irrawaddy' online journal. 

Opposition parties have objected to the rules, saying they will make it difficult to campaign freely. On July 21, the NLD issued a 10-point proposal suggesting amendments to the election rules, including appointing UEC officials who have been free of party affiliation for at least five years before the election, according to a report by 'Eleven' news media. According to a report by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), several NLD officials met with the UEC at its headquarters in Naypyidaw on Aug. 1 to discuss its proposal.

Citing Win Myint, NLD central committee member, the report said that seven of the proposed amendments were accepted by the UEC, including extending the campaign period to 60 days from the 30-day period it had announced in July.

Proportional Representation

Does the West really want a Suu Kyi presidency?
Bertil Lintner: The Irrawaddy- 7 July 2014
The writer examines the historical background to US and Australian military relations with Myanmar, and concludes:

"There is fertile ground to build on but, in the end, Burma may find itself in the middle of a new big-power game over which it would have little or no control. It is also plausible to assume that the West would prefer continuity and stability in Burma to any abrupt change after the 2015 general election. While Western powers continue to pay homage to the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, it is more likely that they would prefer for the next government to be more or less the same as the present one. Because, as always, regional security is more important for the West than human rights and genuine democratic development ."

Derek Tonkin writes: It used to be said that what The Lady wants from the West, she gets. This is no longer the case. While Suu Kyi herself will continue to maintain the closest personal relations with Western leaders who will unceasingly give her strong moral support, analysts are already warning that a land-slide victory in the 2015 elections by the National League for Democracy could have a seriously destabilising effect. There are ominous signs of a developing confrontation between Suu Kyi and the Tatmadaw on a range of issues, notably the amendment of the Constitution, over which the Tatmadaw has the power to continue to exercise control. 

It seems unlikely even so that the NLD would achieve such success at the elections that they would be able to push through further constitutional amendments against the wishes of the Tatmadaw. Any gloom and doom scenario at this stage would accordingly not be justified. As it is, some investors are already awaiting the outcome of the 2015 elections and could be disenchanted if the NLD were to emerge as a potentially governing political force. Their fears though are unlikely to be realised. 

The matter of proportional representation has recently been raised, and a Committee formed to examine the issue in the Upper House. Two recent articles assessing the pros and cons of proportional representation examine the need for a change in the system:

Igor Blazevic gives a cogent and persuasive presentation against a change in the system at this particular time, while Hans Hulst points out that proportional representation is after all a fairer system. Both are right in their own way, but Igor Blazevic wins the argument in my view because any rushed change to accommodate USDP political aspirations (and machinations) would be manifestly contrived, given the impossibility of any serious public consultation before the 2015 elections. My expectation is that the notion of proportional representation will be 'kicked into the long grass' until after the elections, but if the matter were to be forced through against my expectations, the disruption to the 2015 elections could be profound.

Latest New and Views 

Review Committee deals blow to Suu Kyi's hopes
The Irrawaddy - 12 June 2014
The Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee has voted overwhelmingly to recommend retaining Article 59(f) of the Constitution. In a committee meeting on 6 June, “only five members voted to amend it,” a USDP lawmaker has told The Irrawaddy, adding that committee members from the military and the USDP persuaded others to reject any changes. “Since the majority of members voted not to amend it, the amendment of that article will not happen in this Parliament.”

Of the 31-member committee, seven members are unelected military representatives, while 14 represent the USDP. Only two members are from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, while eight represent other political parties. The committee will submit its final recommendations to the Union Parliament, where votes will be cast on the proposed constitutional changes.

Article 59 (f) is one of the more controversial articles of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. It states that the president may not be married to or have children who are foreign nationals. Suu Kyi’s sons from her marriage to the late academic Michael Aris are British.

The Lady rallies the masses once again
Min Zin: Foreign Policy Blog - 5 June 2014
There's no doubt that Burma's constitution is deeply flawed. The excessive power that it grants the military and the obstacles it places in the way of amendment are only two of the most obvious problems…..At the [recent] rallies, Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters called for replacing the 75% requirement with a simple majority parliamentary vote. After spending the past two years lobbying for a constitutional amendment, the Lady (as the Burmese often refer to their revered opposition leader) has finally lost her patience with the military…..The question is whether this show of political influence will achieve its professed goal. The short answer is "no." In all likelihood, the campaign will end up serving merely as part of the broader political effort to garner support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, ahead of the 2015 elections. There are at least three reasons to assume this outcome. Continue reading…..

Derek Tonkin writes: Another perceptive commentary by Min Zin. I would not though wholly discount the possibility that Suu Kyi might personally boycott the 2015 elections as a final gesture of opposition, which might help to restore her lately tarnished image and consolidate her legacy as an icon of democracy rather than compromised politician.

Latest News   

Myanmar election body says no change in 2015 vote campaign format
Radio Free Asia  - 9 May 2014
Myanmar’s Election Commission has dismissed reports that candidates contesting in general elections next year would be prevented from campaigning outside their constituencies under new rules that would deal a blow to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

In a letter this week to the NLD, the Election Commission distanced itself from reports quoting Tin Aye as saying that the election restrictions would be imposed in the 2015 elections. He allegedly made the remarks during a meeting on April 7 with election officials and political parties in Pathein city west of Yangon.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the party had written to the Election Commission asking it to clarify Tin Aye’s reported remarks. “Our question [to the commission] was, ‘We heard the commission chief say in Pathein that a candidate can only campaign in his or her constituency for the election and whether this is true or not?'," Nyan Win told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “And, 'If he had said so, which law did he base [the change] on?'”  “The commission replied that a candidate, his or her representative and his or her party can campaign freely in the election,” Nyan Win said. “Their reply was different from the reports in newspapers and journals.”

Suu Kyi in Germany and France
Channel News Asia/AFP - 11 April 2014
Speaking in Berlin today to accept a human rights award, she said the country formerly called Burma still needs a democratic constitution, true national reconciliation and a change of mindset among its ex-military rulers.

She urged the world to keep a close eye on the government and to ask: "Does it want to go toward a truly democratic union or does it want to go towards an authoritarian state disguised in democratic garb?"

Suu Kyi was receiving the Willy Brandt Award - the latest in a long line of human rights awards she has picked up since being permitted to travel again in 2012. She also met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

Thanking her international supporters for backing the cause of freedom, she cautioned that "Burma is not yet a democracy. We have been given the chance to build a democratic society, we have not yet built one. But because we have been given the chance, because we now have a choice, we are at a most sensitive, most dangerous time in the path of our evolution."

Referring back to a 1962 coup, the daughter of Burma's independence hero Aung San said: "People forget that we were under military dictatorship for more than half a century".

Election Commission to ban Suu Kyi's Campaign Strategy
The Irrawaddy - 9 April 2014
The chief of Burma’s national election commission has defended the involvement of the army in politics as necessary to prevent a military coup, while also pledging to ban campaign methods used by the main opposition party during the previous by-election.

“The military MPs make up 25 percent of Parliament. To be clear, we have them because we don’t want a coup. The military is in Parliament not because of power, but for negotiation,” said Tin Aye, chairman of the Union Election Commission (EC), during a meeting on Monday in Pathein with sub-election commissions and political parties.

“When will they leave?” added the EC chief, a former general himself, referring to the military-appointed lawmakers. “Only when democratic standards are high in the country.”

A Trilogy of Articles by Peter Popham in 'The Independent' 3-5 March 2014 

Derek Tonkin writes: This is an excellent trilogy of articles by Peter Popham. 

On Suu Kyi's prospects for the presidency, he is in my view right on the figures. The NLD are unlikely at the 2015 elections to win a landslide victory as they did in 1990 or in 2012, sufficient to give them a working majority in the legislature. 

Let me though speculate on her eligibility for the presidency. She has no spouse, Burmese or foreign, and the text of Article 59(f) of the Constitution, in the authoritative Burmese as well as the official English translation, could more reasonably be interpreted as relating to a living spouse, not to one who is deceased.

As regards her two sons, they may well have latent Burmese citizenship, as her mother registered them with the Burmese Consulate in London soon after they were born.  Burmese passports were issued to them in 1988, but were invalidated in 1989. However, there is no evidence that their Burmese citizenship was revoked at the same time. As dual citizenship is not permitted in Myanmar, it might be argued that that their British citizenship is not dominant on all matters relating to what happens in Myanmar itself - which is after all general international practice on dual citizenship throughout the world.

It is still possible for Suu Kyi to be selected as a candidate for the presidency by one of the three electoral college groups. Under parliamentary procedures only after selection would her eligibility be checked by Parliament - for details, see Article 60(d) of the Constitution. Parliament might feel the need to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court who might decide that, given the fact that she is a widow and her sons have latent Burmese citizenship, she is in her very special circumstances after all eligible. 

In any case, what better course for Suu Kyi to follow than to create a constitutional crisis by being nominated for the presidency  and then daring Parliament to challenge her eligibility?

U Win Tin meets U Wirathu in Mandalay
Myanma Freedom - 22 February 2014
Sayadaw U Wirathu and U Win Tin held discussions on 22 February for one hour covering various topics including the proposed quadripartite meeting between the President, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing; Section 59(f ) of the Constitution that prohibits Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming President; military participation in Parliament; the participation of democratic representatives in Parliament; and the proposed interfaith marriage law.


U Win Tin told U Wirathu that the participation of Buddhist monks in politics has existed since the Bagan era, and he accepted the current participation of monks in politics.

Sayadaw U Wirathu said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should become a person like (India’s) Sonia Gandhi. “The public love Daw Suu and rely heavily on her with great expectations. But now, they have to depend on those who they don’t love as they can’t depend on the one they love. So, she should become someone dependable. She needs to become a person like Sonia Gandhi who can control the President."

U Wirathu also said that the public are reconsidering their support for the NLD because it has objected to the interfaith marriage law (proposal).

Derek Tonkin writes: Hardly a ringing endorsement from the controversial monk for Suu Kyi's presidential aspirations. The meeting was reportedly arranged at U Wirathu's invitation.

The Man to Watch - Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
Foreign Policy - 15 January 2014
Ms. Su Mon Thazin Aung, a postgraduate student at Hong Koing University, says that "you can hardly blame people for sitting up and taking notice earlier this week, when a local weekly published details of a speech made by Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the speech, he declared, among other things, that the military is 'afraid of no one.' Just in case someone didn't get the message, he also noted that the Tatmadaw [Burma's armed forces] will always follow policies set by retired Senior General Than Shwe'." Continue reading.....

Constitutional Review

Derek Tonkin writes: A well-reasoned position which will resonate positively in many quarters. On a point of detail, the 1947 and 1974 constitutional provisions did not specifically concern the presidency, but the general argument is well made. A similar Irrawaddy report is at this link.

For the record, the 1947 Constitution only requires the President or his parents to be Burmese citizens born in Burma and to qualify for election to Parliament, which includes the proviso under Article 74 (i) that no candidate should have any foreign allegiance. This proviso does not appear at all in the 1974 Constitution which also does not require the President or his parents to be Burma-born, only that they should be Burmese citizens and that the President should be a duly elected representative. Neither the 1947 nor 1974 Constitutions has any reference to close family relatives. It is an aberration solely of the 2008 Constitution and cannot be traced back to any earlier text.

In the circumstances, it is not entirely clear what particular point the Ambassador is trying to make, as the provisos in the 1947 and 1974 Constitutions are not dissimilar to the US Constitution requiring the President to be "a natural-born citizen" which I am sure the Ambassador would agree should not be seen as "a relic of the past". 

The US Embassy has in its latest comment stated that it believes I have "misunderstood" the Ambassador's comments. My remarks however were directed to one sole purpose, to clarify the factual matter of what the 1947 and 1974 Constitutions actually said on this issue, and my conclusion was: nothing at all - although the US Ambassador had reportedly said that in the two Constitutions "there might have been provisions that reflected a fear of family connections to the outside world". If such provisions exist, perhaps the Ambassador would be good enough to enlighten us. As it is, the US Embassy "clarification" only seems to have  complicated their stance on this issue.

Derek Tonkin writes: Riddled with factual errors too numerous to detail. For starters: the general elections in 2015 are not the same as the (likely) 2016 electoral college-style presidential elections; freedom of the press is already well under way, not just 'promised'; the 1982 citizenship law makes specific provision for the registration of the children of Burmese parents born overseas; only 3,369 suggested amendments out of more than 323,000 received concerned Chapter 3 of the Constitution, which includes the contentious Article 59(f); nearly all political prisoners have been released, not just 'some'; and so on, and so forth. Difficult to award this comment more than 2 marks out of 10.

Derek Tonkin writes: As I expected, Suu Kyi has failed to confirm the NLD's recent assertion at a press conference (at which Suu Kyi was absent) that they had "already decided" on participation in the 2015 elections. The line now is that it is too soon to speculate, "too early yet to talk about what we will do or what we will decide." The NLD Central Committee have no doubt already been informed of, and instructed to toe the revised Party line.  In Lenin's day, this was known as "democratic centralism".  

Latest Comment

Suu Kyi's Party to contest 2015 Elections
Associated Press - 28 December 2013
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party said today that it will contest the 2015 parliamentary elections even if the country's constitution barring her from running for president is not amended.

It was the first time the National League for Democracy party announced it would take part in the polls, which Suu Kyi had said cannot be fair unless the constitution is changed.

"I want to say that the NLD will contest the 2015 elections," National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win said at a news conference today.

Derek Tonkin writes: This is ostensibly an important announcement, which could help to remove much uncertainty. It would however seem from the report of the press conference carried in Eleven Media that Suu Kyi was not present on the occasion, which followed a Central Committee meeting. Responses by two NLD spokesmen, Nyan Win and Win Myint, to a question about what Suu Kyi meant by saying a few days previously that “…one shouldn’t contest the election without amending the constitution…” are not wholly compatible. It would in the circumstances be unwise to regard these oral comments made in response to a question as a definitive statement of NLD intentions, in the absence of a written statement or confirmation by Suu Kyi herself.

Ethnic parties move forward with 2015 plan
The Myanmar Times - 3 November 2013
The Union Election Commission has approved the Federal Union Party’s application to form on October 28. The party has been established by members of the Nationalities Brotherhood Forum, which contains most of the country’s major ethnic minority political parties. U Saw Than Myint, one of 16 founding members, said the new party is designed to give the National League for Democracy and Union Solidarity and Development Party competition in majority Burmese areas of the country.

The Debate on the Constitution

From General to Politician: Interview wtih Shwe Mann
Aung Zaw: The Irrawaddy - 25 October 2013
Shwe Mann was once one of Burma’s most powerful generals, ranking third in the hierarchy of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the military regime that ruled until 2011. Today, he is the speaker of the Union Parliament, and a key player in the country’s ongoing political transition.

Until Thein Sein was named president, Shwe Mann was widely expected to fill that role in the new quasi-civilian government formed after the elections of November 2010.

He expressed optimism that the country’s controversial 2008 Constitution could be amended, but agreed with Suu Kyi (with whom he is, by all accounts, on good personal terms) that it is one of the world’s most difficult national charters to change . Continue reading.....

Derek Tonkin writes: Shwe Mann is in my view the leading candidate to succeed Thein Sein as President after the 2015 Elections - the latter has indicated that he does not wish to seek re-election. Nonetheless Shwe Mann says he supports changes to the Constitution to make Suu Kyi eligible to be a candidate. He does not however represent the military interest any longer.

UK Ambassador discusses "free and fair" elections in 2015
The Irrawaddy - 17 October 2013
British investment in Burma is on the rise, but problems on the ground have some investors reluctant to commit, UK Ambassador to Burma Andrew Patrick said at a press conference today. He acknowledged that challenges to internal stability were giving reason for pause among some Britons. The ongoing conflict between ethnic Kachin rebels and the government army in the north, religious tensions in Arakan State and a series of bomb blasts that have rocked the nation over the last week were cited as deterrents to foreign investment and trade between the two countries.

“We haven’t said to travelers, ‘Don’t come here.’ We’re still welcoming tourists here,” he said. He added that the UK government is encouraging the Burmese government to complete the democratization process by amending the Constitution. “It can’t say it has completed the democratization process without amending the Constitution, as the [2015] elections will not be free and fair,” he said.

Derek Tonkin writes: The Ambassador's remarks on the 2015 elections, if reported correctly, reflect what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself has been saying: that the forthcoming elections might be "free" but they won't be "fair". The issue merits closer examination. In 1994 the Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU) issued a Declaration on the Criteria for Free and Fair Elections, but had further thoughts on the issue in 2006 when the associated 1994 publication "Free and Fair Elections"  by Professor Guy S Goodwin-Gill, issued under IPU auspices, was revised in a second edition expanded to 229 pages.

On a narrow interpretation, it is expected that the 2015 elections could well be "free and fair" so far as the electoral process itself is concerned, but not "fair" in responding to domestic and international pressures (legitimate or otherwise) for the fully democratic representation of the people in a governing parliament, which is after all the principal purpose of general elections. On the other hand, it could be argued that the reluctant support of the people for the 2008 Constitution (a reported 92.48% in favour) fairly reflected what was on offer at the time, since the only alternative was the continuation of direct military rule, which was not the will of the great majority of the Burmese people. 

Burma too busy for by-elections says Election Chief
Democratic Voice of Burma - 12 October 2013
Speaking at a meeting involving representatives of 32 political parties at the Rangoon regional government office on Friday 11 October 2013, Union Election Chairman Tin Aye said that only 3.07% of seats in the Lower House remained vacant while just 2.38% of seats in the Upper House had no constituents. During a parliamentary session in June, Tin Aye said there were 15 vacant seats in total: six in the lower house; four in the upper house; and five in state and regional assemblies.

Derek Tonkin writes: There is no provision in the Consitution or 2010 election legislation setting a time-limit for by-elections. The 1 April 2012 elections followed 12 months after the appointment of Ministers on 30 April 2011, leaving 48 seats vacant, of which only 45 were contested, the National League for Democracy winning 43. Tin Aye did not of course use the word "Burma". This lack of provision concerning by-elections must give cause for some concern.  

The Elders call for Election Observers in 2015
The Irrawaddy - 26 September 2013
Simon Roughneen and  Saw Yan Naing report: “I suggested that the Carter Center come as an  international observer" former US President Jimmy Carter said on Thursday, citing his organization’s record as observer of 94 elections around the world in recent years. Carter added that any observation work needed to be agreed to and started soon, to take in important pre-election processes such as the upcoming national census and voter registration, to ensure that the election will be free and fair.

Carter was speaking alongside  Martii Ahtisaari, an ex-president of Finland, and former Norway Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, as part of a delegation of The Elders, a group of internationally known former world leaders, which includes figures such as Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, and Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s revered anti-apartheid leader. Continue reading.....

Constitutional Review to stay confidential until next year
The Irrawaddy - 28 August 2013
The Union Parliament approved on 27 August a four-month timetable to review the country’s controversial Constitution, which was drafted in 2008 by the former military regime. Led by the deputy speaker of the Union Parliament, the Constitutional Review Joint Committee will divide itself into small groups to review particular sections of the Constitution.

The joint committee will consider the country’s historical background as well as current political, economic and social realities, the political maturity of the people, the national reconciliation process, rule of law and stability, according to a statement released on Tuesday. The committee’s findings will be submitted to the Union Parliament by 31 December, but the review will be kept confidential until then. Continue reading.....

Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann airs presidential ambitions
Simon Roughneen - The Irrawaddy 8 June 2013
Burma’s Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann told The Irrawaddy on Friday that he is interested in succeeding President Thein Sein in 2015.

“Yes, I would like to,” Shwe Mann said when asked about the position. However, the chairman of the governing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) cautioned that any prospective president must first win the backing of Burma’s voters and his or her own party.

“That depends first on our party and our people,” he added, referring to his own presidential prospects.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the World Economic Forum on East Asia

Suu Kyi slams reforms, says Government introduced 'no tangible changes'
The Irrawaddy - 27 May 2013
Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday criticized the government’s reform agenda, saying that little progress had been made in establishing rule of law and peace. She urged President Thein Sein to push ahead with more reforms, adding that “only a desire for change is not enough.”

Suu Kyi also questioned the recent introduction of a two-child policy for Rohingya families in northern Arakan State, saying that the measure is “illegal” and “not in accordance with human rights.”

She made her remarks during the first meeting of the National League for Democracy’s new Central Executive Committee in Rangoon on Monday. (Audio in Burmese at this link) 

Derek Tonkin writes: This would not seem to be a new ruling, but the reinstatement of an earlier regulation first introduced in 1992 and since put on hold. There is no evidence that the ruling has yet been incorporated formally into law and no explanation of how it is to be enforced in practice.

This development has however enabled Suu Kyi to express herself forcefully on a matter of human rights affecting Muslims. With the international spotlight on the Rohingyas, this ruling was bound to attract critical international attention. I doubt that Nay Pyi Taw is all that pleased as it is not consistent with the wishes of the President and the Union Government to handle the Rohingya issue with sensitivity.

In any case, the report of the Commission of Enquiry makes it clear on Page 23that the President's Office, the Union Government and the Rakhine State Government (as well as INGOs and NGOs) are jointly responsible for implementing these particular recommendations on family planning on family planning - the President has in principle approved the report's recommendations. Accordingly it would appear to be ultra vires for the Rakhine State Government to act alone by way of notification to the media without clearance with the President's Office or with the Union Government and in defiance of the stipulation that implementation should be non-mandatory.

Suu Kyi's intervention might be seen as the first salvo in the expected 2015 Election Campaign.  


Lee Jones 1