Burma. The political year was dominated by the parliamentary elections held on November 8. The election was a triumph for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National Democratic Alliance (NLD).
According to COUNTRYAAH, Naypyidaw is the capital of Burma which is located in Southeastern Asia. NLD won 255 seats, almost 79%, of the elective seats in the lower house. In the upper house, the party took home 135 out of 168 seats. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) received a total of only one tenth of all eligible seats. A quarter of the seats in both chambers – 56 in the upper house and 110 in the lower house – were reserved for the military.
The NLD also reaped great successes in the elections to the state parliament with the exception of the Rakhine and Shan states.
The fear that the election results would not be acknowledged – like 1990 – came to shame when USDP, President Thein Sein and Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing early congratulated the NLD and Suu Kyi for the victory and promised to respect the outcome.
The victory margin means that the NLD can elect a president on his own in a special vote in Parliament. It is expected in early 2016. But it is clear that Suu Kyi cannot be a candidate. The reason is a disputed clause in the Constitution that prohibits anyone who is married to a foreigner or whose child has a foreign passport to become president. It was thought to have been tailored to prevent Suu Kyi from running for office because her sons are British citizens, just like her late husband.
Earlier in the year, she had tried unsuccessfully to change the clause in talks with, among others, President Thein Sein, the army chief and the parliament’s presidents. In June, Parliament rejected proposals to reduce the majority required to implement constitutional amendments, which would have abolished the military’s veto power.
Suu Kyi traveled to China in June and met, among others, President Xi Jinping. The invitation was seen as a sign that Beijing was confident that Suu Kyi and the NLD would become a power factor after the election.
A few days before the election, Suu Kyi said she would “stand over the president” if NLD won.
However, the new NLD government must find that the military retains control of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior responsible for the police and control of local administrations and the Ministry of Border Protection. The transparency of the defense budget is also small.
Thein Sein, a former army general, announced in July that he would not seek re-election. Tensions in the USDP government party came in open days in August when the president dismissed Shwe Mann, the Speaker of the House, as party leader. Monsoon rains caused major flooding in July and August, which disrupted the elections in parts of the country. More than 100 people died and nearly one million became homeless.
In addition to the tug of war with the military, the upcoming government must address discrimination against the Muslim population group Rohingya as well as other ethnic minorities. Rohingya’s voting rights were very limited and Suu Kyi was criticized for not mentioning their rights. Her silence was seen as partly tactical in order not to clash with the powerful nationalist Buddhist monk movement Ma Ba Tha. It has pushed for laws that restrict the right to convert and the ability of people of different religions to marry.
During the year, the government negotiated a ceasefire with ethnic guerrilla groups and in October signed an agreement with eight of the 17 groups. But among the groups that did not sign were those who controlled most territory – the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Shan State Army and the Wastate United Army (UWSA). Struggles occurred during the year in Shan State between government forces and the rebel movement MNDAA (Myanmar’s National Democratic Alliance and Army), which represents the Hankinese Kokang people.
The election campaign begins
The election campaign ahead of the general elections in November begins. The reigning NLD, led by Aung san Suu Kyi, are clear favorites. Party leader Suu Kyi remains popular with the Burmese majority, while a crackdown on peace with the minority has made her less popular with these groups. Suu Kyi has previously urged voters via social media to give the NLD a landslide victory so that the party can seriously challenge the military. The military-backed USDP is now trying to win voters among disappointed minorities. The corona pandemic, which has gained momentum in Myanmar in recent weeks, has led many to demand that the election be postponed. Meetings with more than 50 participants are prohibited due to the risk of spreading the infection.
Rakhine is quarantined
The spread of the coronavirus is accelerating in Myanmar and it seems to be spreading particularly fast in the troubled Rakhine, which is now completely shut down by the authorities. Previously, the state capital Sittwe was isolated. The state is one of the country’s poorest and health care is not enough for everyone. Particularly vulnerable are the around 130,000 Rohingya living in Rakhine and around 150,000 Arakanes (Rakhines) living as internally displaced persons due to the fighting between the military and the rebel group Arakanesiska armi (AA).