Myanmar junta leader announces postponement of mock election – The Diplomat

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Beat ASEAN | Policy | South East Asia

The military government is pinning its political hopes on a state-run election next year, but it is uncertain whether it can be held under current political conditions.

Shortly after taking power in February last year, the Burma Army’s plans for securing its grip on power were fairly straightforward, in theory if not yet in practice. According to the five-point roadmap of the State Administrative Council (SAC), which is reprinted on the front page of the daily edition of the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, the military authorities will grant the priority to the fight against COVID-19. (Points 2 and 3) then on “achieve a lasting peace for the whole nation” (Point 4) – code to crush widespread resistance to his rule.

After having probably completed the reconstitution of the Union Electoral Commission and the examination of the electoral lists (point 1), the junta will move on to the fifth and final stage of its roadmap: the holding of “free and Fair Trade”, currently scheduled to be held in August 2023, after which “further work will be undertaken to transfer state functions to the winning party in accordance with democratic standards”. It is hoped that this step-by-step transition to a civilian-looking government will turn the military takeover into something acceptable, both domestically and to the outside world.

But in a recent interview with Russian news agency RIA, junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing hinted that the timing of the election is not certain, given the tumultuous political and economic situation. from the country. As The Irrawaddy reported, when asked about the possibility of the election being delayed during the interview, Min Aung Hlaing replied, “It’s too early to discuss it because it’s about five months. [until emergency rule expires]and a decision must be made based on the situation.

The election has already been postponed once, due to the intense opposition the junta has faced since taking power. Shortly after the coup, Min Aung Hlaing said he would hold elections within a year. He then extended this deadline by eighteen months, until August 2023, instructing the authorities to “create the conditions to organize free and fair multi-party general elections”.

At present, these conditions are very far from existing in most parts of Myanmar. Earlier this month, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, a group of independent international experts, released a report claiming that the military administration controls only 22% of the country’s 330 townships, or about 17% of the area of ​​the country. He concluded: “The junta has no effective control over Myanmar. He has neither full control of the territory of the country nor of its people.

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The opposition National Unity Government (NUG) also claimed that its People’s Defense Forces and allied ethnic armed groups had now established effective control of more than half of the country. While it is unclear whether to take these assessments at face value, they suggest that administering an electoral process in most Myanmar townships would at the very least face the likelihood of be disrupted by resisting forces.

All of this raises the question of whether the junta’s goals are realistically achievable: if elections must await the achievement of “lasting peace for the whole nation”, then elections are unlikely to take place – such is the extent of popular resistance and revulsion against the junta regime.

As Amara Thiha, a visiting fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote for The Diplomat last month, that leaves the SAC with two options: extend the state of emergency for another six months and hope that he will succeed in reconquering and stabilizing the country sufficiently to allow him to administer an electoral process; or simply hold elections in the parts of the country he controls, declare “victory” and hope that enough of the outside world is willing to regard the resulting civil administration as the legitimate government of the country.

Perhaps he is now beginning to see from the military administration that his next rigged elections, if they can take place, are unlikely to pull the junta out of its self-made crisis.

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