Myanmar’s junta leader says nationwide elections may not be possible

Peace and stability are still needed in order for any poll to take place, he told Russian media.
By RFA Burmese
Myanmar’s junta leader says nationwide elections may not be possible Members of Myanmar's Union Election Commission give a demonstration on voting machines to be used in future elections in Yangon on Sept. 5, 2023.

Updated on March 25, at 10:51 am ET.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing says Myanmar will hold elections for the first time since the military seized power in 2021 if the junta can bring peace and stability to the country, Russian media reported.

But in an interview with the ITAR-TASS news agency, republished by pro-junta media, Min Aung Hlaing admitted that nationwide elections may not be possible, presumably due to the intensifying civil war.

“If the State is peaceful and stable, we have a plan to hold the election in relevant sections as much as we can even if the election is not held nationwide under the law,” Min Aung Hlaing said during the interview in Yangon on March 18.

Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian-led government in a February 2021 coup d’etat, on the pretext of voter fraud and incorrect voter registration lists in the November 2020 elections. That vote was swept by the National League for Democracy party, led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whom the junta has since imprisoned.

The coup has sparked a civil war as ordinary citizens have taken up arms to fight the junta, forming guerilla bands of People’s Defense Forces, or PDF. 

They have been joined by ethnic armies in the northern and western parts of the country that have inflicted a series of battlefield defeats on the military since late last year.

Deteriorating security

The military has said it plans to hold elections, but has failed to do so amid  deteriorating security across the country. 

In the interview with ITAR-TASS, Min Aung Hlaing said “we have an ultimatum aim to hold a free and fair election,” but said that may be possible only in “relevant sections” and not across the country, implying that nationwide elections may not be possible for the foreseeable future.

On Feb. 1, the junta extended a state of emergency for another six months, but achieving the peace and stability needed to end it appears to be a distant goal following intensified fighting.

Calling themselves the “Three Brotherhood Alliance,” three ethnic armies in the northern and western parts of the country launched a campaign against the military on Oct. 27 dubbed “Operation 1027,” which was followed by a similar campaign the following month by a Karenni rebel group. 

They have overrun dozens of military camps and made significant territorial gains, leading the the surrender of hundreds of junta soldiers, which has put the military on its heels. 

Myanmar Democratic Party chairwoman Than Than Nu told Radio Free Asia  that even holding an election in more peaceful parts of the country may be challenging.

“One thing that needs to be emphasized is the security situation in places where the election would be held," she said.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan, Mike Firn and Malcolm Foster. 

Updates to add background and explanation about the 2020 election and rebel advances.


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