Myanmar Army-Linked Parties Challenge Election Defeats in Supreme Court

2021-01-05
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Myanmar Army-Linked Parties Challenge Election Defeats in Supreme Court Khin Yi (R), vice chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, addresses reporters at a press briefing in Yangon, Jan 5, 2021.
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Two Myanmar military-linked political parties, rejecting their landslide loss to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy in November elections, filed a joint complaint with the Supreme Court accusing the government and national election authorities of electoral fraud, they said Tuesday.

The NLD, which swept the Nov. 8 elections by securing more than 82 percent of all 1,117 contested seats in the Union, state, and regional legislatures, will form a government and launch Aung San Suu Kyi’s second five-year term around the end of March.

The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a military proxy political party that ran the 2011-2015 government, refused to accept the results of the vote in which it won only 71 seats, or 6.4 percent, nationwide. 

Within days of the November elections, as votes were still being tallied, the USDP raised accusations of fraud with the compilation of voter lists, ballot irregularities, and vote counting in several townships. The party demanded a new vote jointly supervised by the military and the Union Election Commission (UEC).

The USDP and the Democratic Party of National Politics (DNP), a new party formed by former military generals, say that the NLD government and the UEC — an independent, president-appointed body that oversees voting — committed election fraud. The DNP fielded candidates in more than 100 constituencies in the November elections, but did not win any seats.

The filing names President Win Myint and three other government officials as well as UEC chairman Hla Thein and 14 others as defendants.

The Supreme Court accepted the parties’ Application of Writ and on Tuesday issued a schedule of video-conference hearings on Jan. 29 involving the plaintiffs. The preliminary hearing will determine whether the court accepts the filing and takes up the case. The court’s decision will be final.

“They are done. We will continue pursuing legal action against them. We have filed the case with the Constitutional Tribunal and the Union Supreme Court,” said DNP chairman Soe Maung at a joint press conference in Yangon.

The military will serve as witness in the case, he said.

“The military has been involved in exposing much evidence related to the case,” Soe Maung said without elaborating. “We have submitted an application of writs because we have credible evidence.”

The plaintiffs will not accept any apologies because the NLD already declared victory through fraud voting, he added.

The retired military general, who contested in the 2020 elections as a candidate from Yesagyo township in Magway region but lost, said there had been many instances of fraud such as voting by underage persons and people voting without proper identification cards.

NLD will not respond

The UEC did not respond to RFA’s requests for comment on the accusation and the court filing. In December, the election body said the DNP had violated the Political Parties Registration Law by issuing statements claiming electoral fraud and accusing UEC and election subcommission officials of failing to perform their duties in accordance with the constitution and the Election Commission Law.

Aye Aye Than, a USDP candidate who contested in Thingangyun township in Yangon region, said she does not consider newly elected candidates to be legitimate because the voting fraud complaint has yet to be resolved.

“If the defendants cannot refute the evidence and the proof of voting fraud we presented, then they will have to accept the findings we have,” she said. “We have submitted credible evidence, and if it cannot be proven wrong, the results of the vote counts will be annulled, and the election results will be nullified.”

“As long as the complaint is not resolved, the status of newly elected members of parliament is not legitimate,” she added. “Only after the compliant is settled will they become official MPs.”

NLD spokesman Monywa Aung Shin rejected the accusations as baseless and said that his party would not respond to them because the 2020 election results had already been recognized internationally as being fair.

“The election results have been confirmed under the Election Commission Law [and] have been internationally recognized,” he said. “The people also endorsed the results since they were allowed to vote for their desired parties freely.”

“Given that we have such credible facts supporting the election results, we will not respond to the protest or to any other attempt to tarnish the legitimacy of the election results,” he said.

USDP vice chairman Khin Yi told RFA that he doesn’t trust the UEC because it failed to settle previously raised allegations of voting fraud and that he doesn’t believe the body’s claim that the election results are in line with the people’s wishes.

“We will keep pursuing legal action, [but] we are not demanding a reelection. We are demanding a recount of the votes,” he said, adding that the USDP wants an independent commission to examine the results.

“We are not childishly disputing the election results,” he added. “The trust issue is pretty bad now. We cannot accept the election results. We will not recognize them unless the ruling government takes action to prove us wrong.”

‘It came as a surprise’

Longtime court attorney Aye Paing said during the press conference that neither the president nor the accused lawmakers had complied with related statutes in the 2008 constitution before and during the 2020 elections.

He cited Article 64, which prohibits the president from being involved in his party’s campaign activities, and Article 65, which requires the president, lawmakers, and government officials to swear that they will comply with the charter’s statutes.

“It came as a surprise that we found that the president was involved in campaign activities,” he said. “It is a violation of Article 64 of the constitution.”

But Khin Maung Zaw, another longtime court attorney, said the UEC’s decision regarding the election results is final.

“The Application of Writ filed with the Supreme Court is for legal action taken against a government department, and not against the entire government,” he said. “But the UECs decision is final, so these allegations should not be accepted legally.”

Officials said that the military, the USDP, and the DNP have recorded over a million instances of voting fraud. The USDP has reportedly filed more than 1,000 cases with the UEC and nearly 200 cases with the police. Poll protests must be submitted within 45 days of elections.

Intervention by the military is troubling to many in Myanmar, which endured harsh, corrupt military rule from 1962 to 2011. In 1990, the military nullified the results of an election in which the NLD won 81 percent of the seats in parliament, holding Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years between 1989 and 2010.

Reported by Aung Theinkha, Phyu Phyu Khine, and Waiyan Moe Myint. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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