Yangon, Myanmar – Polls begin in Myanmar’s general election – only the second most democratic vote in Southeast Asia since the end of five decades of military rule – Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is widely expected to win re – election.
Sunday’s vote comes amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar, with more than 60,000 infections and 1,390 deaths since mid-August.
Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections, but the ruling NLD and the Central Election Commission (CEC) have said they will not run in the by-elections. While allowing older voters to cast their ballots in advance, the government has promised to provide adequate personal protective equipment to poll workers and ensure social distance at each polling station.
In southern Okkalapa township in eastern Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, hundreds of voters – wearing masks, masks and gloves – lined up outside a polling booth in the early hours of the morning.
Voters in the region voted between the NLD’s Thought Ning So and prominent democracy activist Ko Ko Guy, criticizing the ruling party’s failure to amend the military draft constitution, which allocates a quarter of seats in parliament to the military, which gives it the power to block constitutional reforms.
Aung Myo, a resident of South Okkalapa, said he voted for Sookie’s NLD. “She is very strong, she is strong for the truth and for our country,” he told Al Jazeera.
Su Mo Thant, a 23-year-old student, said she was “excited” to cast her ballot.
“I have some friends who do not like to vote, they do not like the current political system and do not like to vote. I do not really like it,” she said. “It’s a democracy where you can choose what you want. It is important to vote independently.”
More than 37 million people are eligible to vote to elect members to the upper and lower houses in an election that Human Rights Watch declared “fundamentally flawed.” An American group last month condemned the exclusion of voters from the Rohingya minority, criminal prosecution of government critics before the vote, as well as unequal party access to state media.
According to HRW, polls have also been canceled in ethnic minority areas, with more than 1.5 million people banned. The Election Commission blamed the move on security issues amid clashes between military and ethnic rebel groups.
The worst affected area is Rakhine State, where the military is fighting the Arakan Army, a leading rebel group seeking greater autonomy for the Rakhine people. The move will determine the electoral sector in favor of the NLD in the less popular state, and analysts have warned that the controversy in Rakhine could escalate in the wake of the election.
Myanmar is also a western state for the Rohingya minority who are considered to be immigrants from Bangladesh and are prohibited from registering to vote. More than 730,000 ethnic groups fled to Myanmar and Bangladesh in the wake of brutal military strikes in 2017, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday, adding that he hoped Sunday’s vote would allow refugees to return. “Security and Respect”.
UN investigators have accused the Myanmar military of “intent to commit genocide” during the 2017 campaign against the Rohingya, but Sookie has denied the allegations. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has gained popularity in Myanmar despite international criticism of her handling of the Rohingya crisis by the government and its treatment of other ethnic minorities.
Wilson, a 60-year-old retired sailor, gave only one name, saying he was “100 percent” for Sookie’s NLD with Al Jazeera.
“This is a time of transition and we have found good government. We have only one choice, no one else,” he said outside a polling booth in downtown Yangon.
“It simply came to our notice then. People can speak freely. This country was in the military when I was born. The NLD
It’s only been four years, so we have to move on to a new future, “he said.
For his part, Sookie, in his last campaign speech on Thursday, promised to strengthen democracy if re-elected.
Acknowledging the grievances over the organization of the vote, he said “the important thing is to resolve these issues through peaceful means within the boundaries of the law”, and urged voters to remain calm and maintain “stability”.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is the NLD’s main rival in Sunday’s election.
Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hling last week refused to honor the results of the general election, criticizing “widespread violations of the rules and policies of the pre-voting process.”
But on Sunday, after the vote, the General said “the result must come from the will of the people.”
“This is undeniable and I agree,” the Myanmar Times reported.