Myanmar election results predictable but outcome could complicate foreign relations

Aung San Suu Kyi.JPG
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) – largely due to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s enduring popularity – is likely to emerge as the largest party in both the upper and lower houses of parliament and thus able to re-elect President Win Myint.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 - 5:37 PM

The outcome of Myanmar's November general elections is predictable, with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) likely to emerge as the largest party in both the upper and lower houses of parliament and thus able to re-elect President Win Myint. But the outcome could complicate foreign relations, said Control Risks in a note.

"The ban on mass gatherings and other Covid-19-related restrictions will strengthen the NLD’s advantage vis-à-vis emergent pro-democracy and regional political parties, which represent the biggest threat to the NLD’s parliamentary majority. Election campaigns have also shifted online due to the restrictions," said Derek Aw, senior analyst and lead analyst for Myanmar at Control Risks. 

"However, internet blackouts in parts of Rakhine and Chin states mean that most residents are cut off from digital communications and thereby the political process, leading to accusations of widespread disenfranchisement in areas dominated by ethnic minority voters."

The elections commission is likely to announce a list of constituencies where voting will not take place in October. These are mainly conflict-affected areas but those with Covid-19 clusters might be included as well. 

Myanmar on Monday locked down most of Yangon province for two weeks as part of efforts to contain a record surge in Covid-19 infections ahead of their general elections, scheduled for Nov 8. The stay-at-home order bars more than one member of a family venturing out for shopping and curbs travel from Yangon township to other cities except for essential work. 

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These guidelines were issued on Sunday by the nation's Central Committee on Covid-19 control. 

"The military-aligned opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and over 20 other political parties have requested a postponement, but the NLD holds significant influence over such a decision and is unlikely to agree to it, mainly because a longer campaign period would help the USDP and new pro-democracy political parties," said Mr Aw. 

That being said, if infection rates continue to rise, especially in the commercial capital and the NLD bailiwick Yangon, a public health crisis might force the NLD to postpone the election to early 2021, he said. 

"If the election goes ahead in November and the NLD fails to address concerns of biases, the international community is likely to view the results with some reservations and as only partially reflective of the will of Myanmar voters," added Mr Aw.  "This will further complicate Myanmar’s relationship with Western governments in the years ahead, especially amid the continuing humanitarian crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of displaced ethnic Rohingyas."