Myanmar’s junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) has announced plans to change the country’s electoral rules from a ‘winner takes all’ model to a proportional representation (PR) model, sparking criticism observers who say the military is manipulating system politics to retain power.
The UEC sent a letter to all political parties last week informing them that a meeting will be held in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, during the first week of November to discuss the electoral system before the next one. general poll of the country. In August, the junta leader Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said there would be no new elections in Myanmar until 2023 at the earliest and a date has yet to be announced.
In a proportional representation system, winners are declared based on all votes cast, rather than plurality or simple majority. According to Myanmar’s 2008 constitution, the military already holds 25 percent of the seats in each legislature, and a proportional representation system would likely give it even greater control over the country’s laws.
The announcement follows a meeting on the use of the proportional representation system between the UEC and 51 political parties in the capital Naypyidaw on February 28, just weeks after the military seized power from the democratically elected government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in a coup. Most of the parties that attended the meeting were pro-military.
Repeated attempts by RFA’s Myanmar service to contact UEC for comment on plans for the new system have gone unanswered.
Speaking to RFA, Kyaw Htwe, a Pyithu Hluttaw member representing the NLD in Zabu Thiri township in Naypyidaw, said the proportional representation system does not reflect the aspirations of the people.
“According to their plan, the number of representatives elected in the elections will be reduced and the army will gain the upper hand by retaining 25% of the vote without the consent of the people,” he said.
“They plan to form a government of their choice, hoping to include representatives who will say yes to anything they say. The main objective is not to let the NLD have a chance to form a government according to the will of the people.
Kyaw Htwe said any process conducted by the military in violation of the 2008 constitution, which was drafted by the military itself, is illegal.
“Get out of politics”
Almost nine months after the February 1 military coup, security forces killed 1,199 civilians and arrested at least 7,032, according to the Bangkok-based Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), mainly during repression of anti-junta demonstrations.
The junta said they toppled the NLD government because they claimed the party staged a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 elections through widespread electoral fraud. He has yet to present any evidence for his claims and public unrest is at an all time high.
The junta’s Deputy Information Minister Zaw Min Tun noted that it was civilian politicians, not the military, who initially introduced the public relations system in Myanmar.
“Currently, UEC is working on a public relations system. I think it will be adopted because there are supporters, ”he told RFA.
“We are figuring out how to do it. It is not yet possible to say how this will be done. It will take place within the confines of the 2008 Constitution – the PR system cannot apply to everything. I think things will become clearer after our discussions.
Asked about allegations that the military is trying to manipulate the system to gain more political influence, Zaw Min Tun declined to comment.
Sai Leik, vice chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told RFA that although the military has issued an invitation to next week’s meeting, his party will not attend.
“Whether it’s the PR system or the winner-take-all system, the military needs to get out of politics,” he said.
“We chose our candidates to contest the elections, but the [military] automatically obtained 25 percent of the vote without standing for election. It is an obstacle to democracy. If they want to continue like this, with 25% automatic seats, there won’t be a lot of benefit for people, no matter what system they use.
Reported by the Myanmar service of RFA. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.