Myanmar will hold general elections on November 8, 2015, the first multi-party elections in 25 years since the result of 1990 general elections, held after the 8.8.88 democracy uprising, was rejected.
Constitutional amendments have failed, the nationwide ceasefire agreement lacks inclusiveness, the general living standards of populations is below the poverty line, farmers and workers’ rights have been ignored, and peaceful protests against the National Education Law were violently cracked down upon. We strongly believe that the upcoming general elections held under such circumstances are not a way out, nor a complete solution to the many underlying political and social crises the country is facing today. The upcoming general elections have to be held in a free and fair manner, and only then it will serve as an early step for Myanmar to begin genuine democratic reforms.
Repeated errors in voter lists are likely to have a negative influence on the right to vote, on the free and fair nature of the election, and the credibility of the result. Geographical distances and language barriers remain a major challenge to ensure the right to vote for populations in remote ethnic areas. Despite receiving financial and technical support, both domestically and from foreign actors, the Union Election Commission (UEC) has shown a clear lack of will to take responsibility when it claimed that responsibility lies with the voters themselves.
Applying pressure on civil servants, the timing of implementing government-led development projects during the election campaign period, and indicating support from the military, are some of the tactical trends employed to win votes used by candidates from the ruling party and current government officials, thus threatening to inflict great harm to the legitimacy and the free and fair nature of the election.
Although international governments voiced their concerns regarding the potential use of nationalism and religion, and unethical and unlawful tactics for winning votes in the election, records show no signs of such misconduct ceasing or declining. In fact the situation has become worse and we believe the current government and the ruling party must take full responsibility for the consequences of failing to take concrete measures. Furthermore, manipulation of religious and ethnic diversity to win votes can further deepen divisions within society and severely undermine prospects for national reconciliation. Such policies and positions of the ruling party and its allies are particularly concerning.
Comments publicly made by the ruling party against the opposition and ethnic parties clearly violate election rules and regulations, yet the UEC has ignored these statements and failed to take any action. The neutrality and impartiality of the UEC is highly questionable as it is becoming increasingly unreliable to ensure a credible election result that represents the will of the people.
Civil society from different sectors have invested time and resources from every aspect and every corner so that they can take part in order to ensure that the election result reflects and represents the desire of the people, and to ensure the chances of facing a worst-case scenario are minimized.
We strongly condemn all the restrictions on the right to vote, and all the activities that are undermining the elections and the surrounding environment to be free, fair and clean. We call on the government, the UEC, and the ruling party to take full responsibility and be accountable to ensure a credible election result that represents the desire of the people and to ensure that power is fully transferred to a new government and parliament as per the voting result.