Myanmar urged to hold by-elections, ensure right to vote for all
Millions denied right to vote under discriminatory laws, cancelled elections
Publish- November 25, 2020, 11:37 PM
UNB NEWS - UNB NEWS
Update- November 26, 2020, 12:43 AM
Fortify Rights on Wednesday said the government of Myanmar should immediately schedule by-elections in areas where the Union Election Commission (UEC) cancelled the November 8 polls.
The Myanmar government should ensure the right to vote for all eligible persons, including Rohingya and others disenfranchised under discriminatory laws, said the rights body.
The national elections held in Myanmar on November 8 disenfranchised ethnic minority voters, most notably the Rohingya en masse in Rakhine State as well as Rohingya refugees, including hundreds of thousands of potentially eligible voting-age Rohingya in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
“Myanmar’s elections aren’t finished,” said Ismail Wolff, Regional Director of Fortify Rights.
“Free and fair elections must be held at the earliest opportunity in all areas where they were suspended.”
On October 16, the UEC announced the cancellation of elections in parts of 15 townships in Bago Region, Kachin, Kayin [Karen], Mon, Shan, and Rakhine states. On October 21, UEC spokesperson Myint Naing said the UEC cancelled the elections because the areas were “unsafe."
On November 11, the UEC announced that it would hold elections in areas previously cancelled “when the situation in those areas becomes stable enough.”
However, the UEC has yet to commit to a timeframe for the by-elections nor qualify what conditions would constitute “stable enough.”
The Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military also both called for by-elections in Rakhine State. On November 12, the AA released a statement saying the suspension of the elections had “disenfranchised” voters and to allow “by-elections [to] be held in those constituencies in order that the people do not lose their rights.”
The same day, Major General Zaw Min Tun of the Myanmar military welcomed the AA statement saying, “The military chief also stated that he wishes that every registered voter be able to vote. That’s why we welcome the AA’s statement.”
On November 12, the President’s spokesperson Zaw Htay told journalists, “The government will be negotiating and coordinating [with others] in order to hold elections in areas left out of the November 8 elections.”
However, the President’s office has not provided any further information or taken action to facilitate the elections since this announcement.
Myanmar’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), claimed a landslide victory in the November 8 elections, securing a clear majority in the parliament.
The Myanmar authorities denied almost all voting-age Rohingya—including hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Rakhine State—the right to vote through an arbitrary and discriminatory application of Myanmar’s citizenship law.
The UEC also rejected all Rohingya candidate applications for the 2020 election.