Myanmar's Armed Forces Questions Balloting After Proxy Party’s Poor Results

2020-12-01
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Myanmar's Armed Forces Questions Balloting After Proxy Party’s Poor Results Myanmar's military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing shows his ink-marked finger after voting at a polling station in Naypyidaw, Nov. 8, 2020.
AFP

Myanmar’s military is reviewing last month’s electoral process to determine whether voting by servicemen and their families was conducted legally, following reports of disputes and claims of fraud by its proxy political party.

The military is reviewing votes cast by servicemen and their relatives in 218 township polling stations during the nation’s Nov. 8 elections to clarify the integrity of the balloting process and to ensure that the elections were free and fair beyond any doubt, the armed forces said in a statement issued Monday.

“It was learnt that electoral disputes in the general election held on 8 November 2020 occurred across the nation,” said the statement issued on the website of military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

“The Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] is scrutinizing and reviewing the election processes in 218 townships where servicemen from regiments and units of the Tatmadaw and their family members cast votes whether election processes happened in accord with the law or not,” said the English version of the statement, using the Burmese name for the military.

If the military detects discrepancies during its review, then voters from the constituencies will submit electoral objections to the Union Election Commission (UEC), the president-appointed body that oversees voting in Myanmar.

The military also said it has requested that the UEC issue necessary directives to the respective election subcommissions for the authorized copying of related public documents that need to be reviewed.

The military’s announcement did not detail how it will go about reexamining the military voting process.

The ruling civilian-led National League for Democracy swept the Nov. 8 elections, giving it another five years in office with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi at the helm.

The NLD's main competitor, the pro-military opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), failed to pull off wins in some constituencies it previously held. The party blasted the voting as unfair, alleging ruling party interference and criticizing the slow release of results.

RFA could not reach UEC officials for comment.

Interference in the UEC

Shein Win, chairman of the Mandalay Region Election Subcommission, which oversaw many military polling stations, said officials there would not respond to the military’s demand without permission from the UEC beforehand.

“The military will not come to us and ask for information,” he said. “It may interview military service members and their family members, but it cannot ask us for anything regarding the [electoral] process. We cannot respond until the UEC has ordered us to do so.”

NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt said he is concerned that the military might be interfering in the UEC’s procedures.

“During the election, the military chief said service members could freely vote for the political party of their choice,” he said.

“If they review the issues in the military without affecting that aforesaid principle, then we have nothing to object to,” he said. “But if they examine the procedures of polling stations where military service members and their families cast their votes, then I’m worried it could interfere with the UEC’s line of work.”

Khin Maung Zaw, a legal expert and Naypyidaw-based attorney, said the country’s election laws do not give the military authority to scrutinize the election process.

“Neither the Union Election Commission Law nor the Election Law gives the military authority to independently reexamine the electoral process,” he said. “The constitution does not allow it either.”

But the armed forces, either as a group of people or as an organization, can request the information and documents from the UEC, as can citizens and the media, he added.

Article 399(g) of the constitution says that the UEC may form election tribunals to examine electoral disputes in accordance with the law, though it does not mention a role for the military.

Article 402 says that resolutions made by the UEC on matters of election functions, appeals and revisions relating to the resolutions and orders of the election tribunals, and matters taken under the law relating to political parties are final and conclusive.

“The military is not a political party, and it doesn’t have obligations to examine the election process. That's is not its duty,” said Maung Nyar Na, a political commentator and writer from Mandalay.

“If the military has evidence regarding disputes, fraud, or grievances, it may come forward, but it is raises questions if the military wants to do the investigating itself,” he said.

RFA could not reach Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun or government spokesman Zaw Htay for comment.

Reported by Thiha Tun and Thet Su Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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