Myanmar votes on sunday: multiparty democracy takes an important step
by DIPD on November 6, 2015
The parliamentary elections in Myanmar on Sunday, November 8 are likely to result in a major change in the balance of political parties in the country’s National Assembly. Campaigning by over 6000 candidates from 92 parties for over 1000 seats at the national and state/regional levels throughout the country has been mostly peaceful, with only a few incidents marring the campaign period.
A motley situation
Parties have expressed concern over the accuracy and quality of the voter registration list, and are worried that the advance voting process might be manipulated to influence the results. Nothwithstanding these concerns, numerous reforms have improved the administration and transparency of the preparations for the elections, building confidence among observers and the parties.
Ongoing conflicts in Kachin, Shan and Kayin states remain a continued source of instability, leading to the cancellation of elections in parts of some constituencies. The disqualification of some Muslim candidates and the disenfranchisement of many Muslim voters have raised concerns among human rights groups.Media coverage during the campaigns has largely focused on the leading opposition party’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) stand a good chance of winning large numbers of seats in the National Assembly, according to analysts. Daw Suu Kyi herself is ineligible to stand for president due to a constitutional prohibition on presidential candidates having spouses or children with foreign passports.
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has also campaignedactively, in response to the increasingly competitive nature of this election compared to the 2010 contest. In the absence of reliable public opinion polls, how well the USDP will perform is very difficult to predict. Likewise, the rise of numerous ethnic parties has added a further complicating dimension to any attempt to predict election results, but the possibility that more parties will need to establish coalitions has been discussed among political parties.
After the election results are announced, a period of negotiation will follow as the parties and their elected officials choose presidential candidates (through an electoral college in Parliament), and Parliament elects a new president. The USDP, NLD, ethnic parties and military (who nominate one presidential candidate and constitute one quarter of the electoral college) will each hope to have a significant influence on the process of selecting candidates and electing a president.
Danish support to multiparty efforts in Myanmar
DIPD supported meeting between MCOM and parties in Mandalay before the election in november 2015
The Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy has supported a wide range of initiatives to strengthen multiparty democracy since 2012 through its Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP). The MMDP works to enhance multiparty dialogue and cooperation, while also strengthening political parties to perform their democratic functions. With the rise of many new parties, and the shift of power likely to result from the elections, dialogue and cooperation between parties are essential for a smooth political transition and the continued building of democratic institutions.
MMDP has provided support to preparing parties for participation as democratic actors in the electoral process through establishing platforms for dialogue at the national and state/regional level and sponsoring a range of capacity building initiatives to support party development. In the period leading up to elections, it supported training sessions through the country for political party and candidate agents on observation of elections. Well-prepared party and candidate agents will deter malpractice and fraud on election day, and build party confidence in the elections.
MMDP also convened multiparty dialogue forums at the state and regional level where parties were able to identify key concerns in the electoral process and possible avenues to cooperate to resolve those concerns. Finally, MMDP contributed to the development, popularization and monitoring of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates, a voluntary agreement among political parties to adhere to ethical standards of behaviour during the campaign period. These initiatives have all made an important contribution to peaceful and informed preparations of the elections with high levels of constructive political party participation.
If the elections go smoothly, and the new government is formed peacefully, , it will be an important step in building multiparty democracy in Myanmar.
For more information
Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Country Coordinator, +95 9 421 009 560 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or
Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser, +45 38402802 (email@example.com)