Outcome of the Myanmar elections               Prepared for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum by                    ...
handled. Infractions were observed in many polling stations, though probably      not on a scale that would significantly ...
fortunes. In a number of cases, candidates and observers have claimed that these“advance votes” were secured after polls c...
(Pyithu Hluttaw), seventy-nine percent. Coincidentally or not, this is very close to  the proportion of seats won by the N...
impeachment proceedings, and to convene special sessions of the                  legislatures (important if they otherwise...
have a simple majority (presumably the interests of the two will be closely alignedfor now); second, even with the support...
While parties were taken aback at the level of manipulation of the vote count,they have always been well aware of the flaw...
V. ConclusionsPolitical parties in Myanmar are taking a forward-looking approach, determined tomake the best strategic use...
Appendix 1 – Seats won by political parties     Party                                           Upper Lower      State/Reg...
Appendix 2 – Balance of power in the national legislaturesPyithu Hluttaw (lower house)                           25%      ...
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(2010) CPPF - Outcome of the Myanmar Elections


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(2010) CPPF - Outcome of the Myanmar Elections

  1. 1. Outcome of the Myanmar elections Prepared for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum by Richard Horsey1 17 November 2010I. IntroductionElections for the bicameral national legislature as well as fourteen state andregional legislatures were held on Sunday 7 November. Voting took place in apeaceful and somewhat subdued atmosphere, but it was marred by what appears tobe massive manipulation of the vote count. The official results show the regime’sUnion Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) winning a massive majority.Several other parties have condemned the count, and have launched legal challenges(without much expectation of success). Nevertheless, they had always seen theseelections as the first step of a long and difficult process, and the consensus of mostparties at this point is that they must continue to engage with the process, takingtheir seats in the legislatures and making the best use of the limited space that hasopened. Also, despite the irregularities, a number of ethnic-minority parties havefared reasonably well, particularly in the state/region legislatures. This paper provides an account of the voting process on election day, and adetailed analysis of the official results. It then makes some observations on whatmay lie ahead for the country in the next few months, in light of the election resultsas well as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the ongoing tensions in some ethnicareas.II. Election dayElection day itself was peaceful, and the voting took place in an overwhelminglycalm (even subdued) atmosphere. There were many reports of irregularities – itwould have been strange had there not been – but reporting from a credible localnetwork of trained volunteer monitors concluded that as regards the voting itself: “The administration of the poll was generally smooth and most regulations were followed: 71% of observers reported that the voting process was efficiently1 Richard Horsey is an independent political analyst and a former ILO liaison officer inMyanmar; he is fluent in the Burmese language.
  2. 2. handled. Infractions were observed in many polling stations, though probably not on a scale that would significantly shift the overall result of the election.”2 As the polling stations closed at 16:00, representatives of democratic partieswere relatively upbeat: they had known all along that the many constraints of thepre-election period meant that they could not win a legislative majority. However,they were buoyed by a turnout that appeared to be reasonably high – despite aboycott campaign by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and exiled activists– and indications that many voters, despite numerous pressures, had voted for theparty of their choice.3 This optimism appeared to be borne out by the initial counting of votes, whichaccording to the election laws took place in each polling station in the presence ofcandidates or their representatives as well as members of the public. In the eveningof election day, on the basis of the observed vote count, democratic candidatesreported strong support in the constituencies that they contested. One localMyanmar organization, which was following developments closely, projected atmidnight on election day that the democratic parties might win over forty percent ofelected seats at the national level (i.e. almost all the seats they were contesting),with the USDP just under forty percent and the ‘establishment’ National UnityParty (NUP) less than fourteen percent. While such projections always have to betreated with extreme caution, it was certainly the case that many democraticcandidates appeared that night to have built up unassailable leads. The situation then began to change, however. In a number of constituencies,candidates reported that the vote count was suspended once it became clear that theUSDP candidate was going to lose, and resumed later without the presence ofobservers, with the USDP candidate then winning. In other cases where USDPcandidates were losing, large numbers of advance votes (almost all of which were forthe USDP) were brought in late in the count, reversing the USDP candidate’s2 “Preliminary findings report”, 8 November 2010, issued by an independent and politicallyneutral local association based in Myanmar. The report was based on observations by 175volunteer observers in many different parts of the country who had been trained ininternational standards on election observation methodologies.3 There were striking discrepancies between reports of voter turnout by international mediaon the one hand, and party candidates and observers on the other. International mediaoverwhelmingly reported a low turnout, mostly on the basis of the lack of queues observed atpolling stations; whereas party candidates reported a reasonably high turnout of over sixtypercent. The discrepancies may be due to the very large number of polling stations (onaverage, one per 500 voters), which may have given the impression of a low turnout. Officialvoter turnout figures, which have not yet been released, may be significantly inflated by theapparently widespread practice of using supposed “advance votes” to boost USDP results.Interestingly, a pre-election poll commissioned by the exiled media organization Mizzimafound that sixty percent of respondents intended to vote, thirty percent did not, and tenpercent were undecided. (“Mizzima publishes independent pre-poll survey of more than 4,200Burmese voters”, Mizzima, 5 November 2010.) 2
  3. 3. fortunes. In a number of cases, candidates and observers have claimed that these“advance votes” were secured after polls closed, when it became clear that thenumbers of actual advance votes were not sufficient to ensure a win for the USDPcandidate. Overall, it seems from anecdotal reports that advance votes made up asignificant proportion of the total vote, although official figures have not beenannounced. This contradicts statements made shortly before the poll by theChairman of the Election Commission to the effect that the numbers of advancevotes were “small”.4 It is also suspicious that the vast majority of advance votesappear to have been for the USDP, even if this could be partly explained by the factthat the largest categories of advance voters (civil servants and the military, a largeproportion of whom are posted away from their home areas) might be more likely tovote – through choice or pressure – for the USDP. Overall, it is the sheer number ofadvance votes that is most suspicious. By Monday, when many results were communicated to candidates by theElection Commission (but not yet made public), the extent of “advance” votingirregularities was becoming clear. A number of parties, including the NUP, NationalDemocratic Force (NDF), Democratic Party (Myanmar), and a number of ethnicparties began preparing legal challenges through the Election Commission. This is alengthy and potentially expensive process, through a system that is not independentof the regime, and therefore the parties have little expectation of success. A numberof parties also made public statements questioning the results and in particular themanner in which “advance votes” had been used. Shortly after polling, there were armed clashes at two Myanmar towns on theThai border (Myawaddy and Payathonzu), sparked by a renegade unit of theDemocratic Kayin Buddhist Army ceasefire group taking control of key positions inthe towns. While the timing was clearly election-related, these events were not“election-related violence” in the normal sense of that term. The attacks on thesetowns may have been designed to embarrass the regime at a time of elections, ormay have just taken advantage of the distraction the elections provided. But theseactions did not seek to influence the elections themselves.III. Analysis of results5The USDP has an overwhelming legislative majority. In the Upper House (AmyothaHluttaw) it has seventy-seven percent of the elected seats, and in the Lower House4 At a briefing on 18 September in Nay Pyi Taw for diplomats and the media, the Chairmanof the Election Commission stated in reply to a question that: “The numbers of those castingadvance votes are compiled by the township Election Commission. The categories includethose under hospitalization, those in detention, military personnel on duty and training andthose abroad. These numbers are small.”5 At the time this paper was finalized (17 November), results had yet to be announced for 17seats: 2 in the Upper House, 3 in the Lower House, and 12 in the state/region legislatures.Except where noted, however, the pending results will not change the numbers given below. 3
  4. 4. (Pyithu Hluttaw), seventy-nine percent. Coincidentally or not, this is very close to the proportion of seats won by the NLD in its 1990 election landslide.6 Including the twenty-five percent bloc of legislative seats reserved for military appointees, the balance of power in the national legislatures is as follows (see appendix 2 for a graphical representation): USDP military NUP NDF7 ethnic parties independents8Upper House 57% 25% 3% 2% 12% <1%Lower House 59% 25% 3% 2% 10% <1%Combined Union 58% 25% 3% 2% 11% <1%Legislature Such USDP dominance is not only symbolically significant, it also has important legislative consequences at the national level:9 • The USDP has a majority, by itself, in both houses and in the combined legislature. This means that the party will choose two of the three presidential nominees, with the other chosen by the military bloc (controlled by the commander-in-chief). The presidential electoral college is the combined legislature, and the USDP’s majority there means that it will be able to choose the president. • The president, chosen by the USDP, will therefore have much greater formal legislative power than the commander-in-chief, since the president and USDP will be able to act alone in matters requiring a simple majority (i.e. most decisions), without needing the support of the military. • The USDP and the military bloc together have a ‘super-majority’ (greater than seventy-five percent). This has several implications. It means that the USDP+military can amend the constitution as they see fit10 and can impeach public office holders. The other legislators are far from the twenty-five percent needed to block changes to the constitution, to initiate 6 In 1990, the NLD won 392 of 485 seats in the unicameral legislature, or 80.8 percent. The NUP won only two percent of the seats in 1990, and only four percent of national elected seats in 2010. 7 Of the democratic parties, only the NDF won any seats in the Upper House and the Lower House. 8 There are only two independent representatives-elect at the national level, one in each house. This constitutes less than half a percent (rounded up to one percent in the table so that totals add to 100%). 9 For an overview of the provisions of the 2008 constitution relating to the legislative issues raised in the following paragraphs, see Richard Horsey, “A preliminary analysis of Myanmar’s 2008 constitution”, Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum Briefing Paper, 14 January 2009. 10 Amendments to certain provisions of the constitution require a referendum in addition to a three-quarters decision of the combined legislature. 4
  5. 5. impeachment proceedings, and to convene special sessions of the legislatures (important if they otherwise meet infrequently), and far from the thirty-three percent of either house needed to block impeachment proceedings. In the fourteen state/regional legislatures, the situation is slightly different. Across all these legislatures, the USDP has a huge majority, with seventy-five percent of the total elected seats, or fifty-six percent of all seats (including military appointees). However, there are important regional variations. A summary of the balance of power in these legislatures is as follows: Legislature Balance of Power1. Ayeyarwady Region USDP majority [USDP 67%; military 25%; NUP 8%]2. Bago Region USDP majority [USDP 68%; military 25%; NUP 5%; KPP 2%]3. Magway Region USDP majority [USDP 71%; military 25%; NUP 4%]4. Mandalay Region USDP majority [USDP 73%; military 25%; others 2%]5. Sagaing Region USDP majority [USDP 63% military 25%; others 8%; 2 seats result pending]6. Tanintharyi Region USDP majority [USDP 71%; military 25%; NUP 4%]7. Yangon Region USDP majority [USDP 61%; military 25%; NUP 6%; NDF 4%; others 5%]8. Chin State USDP+military majority [USDP 29%; military 25%; CPP 21%; CNP 21%; ENDP 4%]9. Kachin State USDP+military majority [USDP 39%; military 25%; NUP 22%; SNDP 8%; others 6%]10. Kayah State USDP majority [USDP 75%; military 25%]11. Kayin State USDP+military majority [USDP 30%; military 25%; PSDP 18%; KPP 9%; AMRDP 9%; others 9%]12. Mon State USDP+military majority [USDP 46%; military 25%; AMRDP 23%; NUP 6%]13. Rakhine State USDP+military majority [USDP 30%; military 25%; RNDP 38%; others 7%]14. Shan State USDP+military majority [USDP 35%; military 25%; SNDP 21%; others 14%; 8 seats result pending] In the regional legislatures (the Burman heartland), the USDP has a massive majority (higher even than in the Upper and Lower houses). It fully controls these legislatures, mirroring the situation at the national level. Similar consequences follow: the USDP does not need the support of the military bloc for matters requiring a simple majority, and together with the military bloc it has a super-majority. This allows the USDP+military to impeach regional public office holders (Chief Minister, region ministers, and so on). The other legislators are far from having sufficient numbers to initiate impeachment proceedings themselves, block such proceedings, or convene special sessions of the legislature. In the ethnic minority state legislatures, the picture is somewhat different. While the USDP still has a sizeable bloc – more than twenty-five percent – in all of these legislatures, it does not have a majority in any of them (except Kayah). This has two implications: first, the party must join forces with the military in order to 5
  6. 6. have a simple majority (presumably the interests of the two will be closely alignedfor now); second, even with the support of the military bloc, the party has no super-majority. This means that the USDP/military will not have a free hand in matterssuch as impeachment: they can initiate impeachment proceedings, and blockproceedings, but some ethnic parties also have the power to do so. TheUSDP/military also do not have control of when the legislatures meet, as specialsessions can be convened by others. In most of the State Legislatures, this at leastgives ethnic parties some influence over their affairs. It should also be noted that a large proportion of the USDP legislators instate assemblies are members of the ethnic minorities in that state – some of themrespected members of the community; the USDP put a major effort into recruitingsuch credible candidates. This means that while there will no doubt be issues wherethe (Burman-dominated) national-level USDP dictates the positions to be adopted byits state legislators, many – perhaps most – issues of local concern will be decided bythe (ethnic-dominated) party at the local level. Taken together, these two developments will significantly alter the way inwhich ethnic issues are addressed in Myanmar, and the way in which ethnic areasare governed. While these are important developments, the potential impact ofwhich should not be underestimated, they must be set against a number of muchmore negative trends: tensions with armed ethnic organizations are at a dangerouslevel; the Kachin have been excluded from the political process; the only Kayahparty to contest has failed to win any seats in the Kayah legislature; the Wa(UWSA) and Mongla group (NDAA) have refused to participate in the electionprocess; and fighting has flared on the Thai border. It is also important not to put too much emphasis on legislatures. The biggestfactor in the day-to-day governance of the country will be the president and thecabinet that he selects (at the national level) and the chief ministers and the localgovernments that they select (at the local level). It is not required that any of theseoffice-holders be elected representatives, and the legislatures have little power toinfluence or block such appointments.IV. The path aheadWith the voting over, and up to three months before the new legislatures areconvened, a president chosen, and the cabinet appointed, Myanmar has now entereda period of considerable change and uncertainty (the present government continuesin power during this period). 1111 For a detailed discussion of the Constitutional procedures governing the transition to anew government, see International Crisis Group, “The Myanmar Elections”, 27 May 2010,section IV.A. 6
  7. 7. While parties were taken aback at the level of manipulation of the vote count,they have always been well aware of the flaws in the election process, andunderstood that this was the first step in what will be a long and difficult process.The current consensus is that the results will be challenged through legal channels(without much expectation of success), but there will be no boycott of the legislaturesor of the broader process. The significance of the elections has never been dependent on their free andfair conduct. The opportunities lay elsewhere, with the resumption of legal politicalactivity and discussion (including, to some extent, in the domestic media), somethingthat has been impossible for most of the last half-century; with the generationaltransition within the military; with the separation between military andgovernment; and with the introduction of regional legislatures and a limiteddevolution of governance. Some of these developments are tentative, not all mayprove positive, but they do represent change and opportunity in a situation that hasbeen frozen for many years. At the same time, emotions in the country are running high. People aredismayed at the extent of the perceived ballot fraud and at how flagrantly it wascarried out; Aung San Suu Kyi’s release is also a highly emotional moment for thecountry. Overall, it makes for a volatile situation. Many questions are being posed about the impact of Aung San Suu Kyi’srelease in such a context. Speculation is running the gamut from her possibleassassination to her possible appointment as foreign minister12 (neither prediction,it seems, is based on any concrete information). What does seem clear is that theregime has taken the decision on her release from a position of strength andconfidence, having completed the election process on their terms. They are thereforeunlikely to be interested in compromise or political deals; they may, however, makecertain unilateral concessions (such as releasing political prisoners or increasinginternational engagement), which they historically prefer to do from a position ofstrength. At the time of her last release, in 2002, some within the regime believed thatAung San Suu Kyi had lost some of her popular appeal – in part because they hadkept her isolated from the population, and in part because of the decline in thecapacity of the NLD. The regime was reportedly shocked by the huge crowds thatturned out to meet her across the country in the course of early 2003, and weredetermined to prevent her reaching Mandalay, fearing that the city would erupt inpopular support – hence the attack on her convoy at Dipeyin. It seems unlikely thatthe regime has underestimated her popularity a second time, which raises importantquestions, as yet unanswered, about how they plan to deal with the inevitableoutpouring of public support.12 Aung San Suu Kyi was asked about this rumor by a journalist at her 15 November pressconference. 7
  8. 8. V. ConclusionsPolitical parties in Myanmar are taking a forward-looking approach, determined tomake the best strategic use of the small opportunities that are available. They arechallenging the election results, but are not defining their strategy for the future onthat basis. It is critical for the international community to understand the approachthey are taking. The standard gloss for the elections, “a sham process that changes nothing”,is unhelpful. While the results may be devoid of credibility, many things arechanging nonetheless. A dramatically new political landscape is taking shape inMyanmar, although it may take a while for some of the protagonists to recognizethis. The institutions of government and the government itself are changing; theopposition is in flux, with a host of new players and perspectives, into which AungSan Suu Kyi has been thrust; and the ethnic issue has been further complicated,with some ethnic parties doing reasonably well in the polls, others being excludedfrom them, and heightened military tensions in some areas. It is important not to pre-judge any of these processes. The internationalcommunity must recognize that there is a multiplicity of voices in Myanmar that donot fit neatly into the tripartite categorization of ‘government’, ‘opposition’ and‘ethnic’. It is vital to listen to all of these voices. Failure to do so risks reinforcing thepolarization of the past rather than helping to transcend it. 8
  9. 9. Appendix 1 – Seats won by political parties Party Upper Lower State/Region Total1 Union Solidarity and Development Party 128 257 489 8742 National Unity Party 5 12 45 623 Shan Nationalities Democratic Party 3 18 36 574 Rakhine Nationalities Development Party 7 9 19 355 All Mon Regions Democracy Party 4 3 9 166 National Democratic Force 4 8 4 167 Chin Progressive Party 4 2 5 118 Pao National Organization 1 3 6 109 Chin National Party 2 2 5 910 Phalon-Sawaw [Pwo-Sgaw] Democratic Party 3 2 4 911 Kayin Peoples Party 1 1 4 612 Taaung (Palaung) National Party 1 1 4 613 Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State 1 2 2 514 Inn National Development Party – 1 3 415 Wa Democratic Party – 1 3 416 Democratic Party (Myanmar) – – 3 317 Kayin State Democracy and Development Party 1 – 1 218 National Democratic Party for Development – – 2 219 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of – – 1 1 Myanmar)20 Ethnic National Development Party – – 1 121 Kayan National Party – – 1 1 – Independent candidates 1 1 4 622 Democracy and Peace Party – – – –23 Kaman National Progressive Party – – – –24 Khami National Development Party – – – –25 Kokang Democracy and Unity Party – – – –26 Lahu National Development Party – – – –27 Modern People Party – – – –28 Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organization – – – –29 National Development and Peace Party – – – –30 National Political Alliance – – – –31 Peace and Diversity Party – – – –32 Rakhine State National Unity Party, Myanmar – – – –33 Union Democratic Party – – – –34 Union of Myanmar Federation of National – – – Politics35 United Democratic Party – – – –36 Wa National Unity Party – – – –37 Wunthanu NLD (The Union of Myanmar) – – – – TOTAL 166 323 651 1140 Not yet announced 2 3 12 17The total number of constituencies was 1163; polling was cancelled in 6, leaving 1157. 8
  10. 10. Appendix 2 – Balance of power in the national legislaturesPyithu Hluttaw (lower house) 25% 50% 75%Military bloc (110); USDP (257); NUP (12); NDF (8); ethnic parties (45); independent (1); 3 pendingTotal seats: 440 (of which 330 elected); polls cancelled in 4 seatsAmyotha Hluttaw (upper house) 25% 50% 75%Military appointees (56); USDP (128); NUP (5); NDF (4); ethnic parties (29); independent (1)13Total seats: 224 (of which 168 elected)13 Results for 2 seats are pending in the Upper House. One is contested only by ethnic candidates so is shadedblue. One is contested only by USDP and NUP and is shown as a split cell. 9