Are Myanmar’s highly anticipated general elections, widely touted as “historic” by diplomats, pundits and media, doomed to fail just like previous polls? A surprise proposal floated this week by the military-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) to postpone the November 8 polls has raised troubling questions about the military-backed quasi-civilian government’s commitment to the electoral process and rang alarm bells in Western capitals invested in a successful democratic transition through the ballot box. On October 13, UEC chairman and 45-year military veteran Tin Aye suggested in a meeting with political parties that the polls be delayed, either nationwide or in select constituencies, due to monsoon rain-induced flooding and landslides. The UEC then backed away from the proposal amid strong resistance from the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition, the main challenger to the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The USDP’s position on the proposal to delay the vote was not immediately clear.
The UEC later issued a statement acknowledging that a delay could cause “some consequences” and vowed to stick to its original November 8 time table. Political analysts were quick to note that the UEC did not waver in holding a national referendum on a new military-drafted constitution in 2008, a mere week after the extraordinary death, destruction, and dislocation wrought by Cyclone Nargis. The killer storm, Myanmar’s worst-ever natural disaster, resulted in an estimated 138,000 deaths and severely affected over 1.5 million people, according to the United Nations.
The proposed postponement for a comparatively minor disaster has raised speculation about possible ulterior motives. The UEC’s trial balloon proposal notably coincided with President Thein Sein’s failure to secure a nationwide ceasefire agreement ahead of the polls, despite two years of negotiations and strong Western backing. The limited accord, inked on October 15, included only eight of 16 proposed groups and excluded active fighting forces such as the Kachin Independence Organization, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Kokang-led Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, among other armed groups.
Full Article: Is Myanmar’s Election Doomed to Fail? | The Diplomat.