Citizens are clearly anxious to have a say in their country’s future, yet the legitimacy of the historic election on November 8 is already under threat. It’s clear that Myanmar authorities need to make quick and crucial adjustments to electoral procedures in the wake of problems that marred advance polls held last weekend outside the country. Many of its citizens were turned away as “unqualified” to cast ballots, a worrying situation with the general election coming up on November 8. This is an election that is widely expected to alter Myanmar’s political landscape significantly. Questions of polling legitimacy are to be avoided at all costs.
Next month’s election is already historic – the first time in 25 years that the two major rivals are facing one another. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party can only be anticipating a solid challenge from the opposition National League for Democracy. Citizens at home and abroad are eager to exercise their right to vote and foster change in a country that’s been under military or quasi-military rule for decades.
Their fear this week, however, is that the slew of technical glitches that hampered advance polling might bar millions of them from being counted in the final tally in November.
The 1982 Citizenship Law offers a narrow definition of citizenship, recognising only those whose parents were citizens or registered members of an ethnic background residing in Myanmar (Burma) prior to the British takeover in 1923.