Myanmar general’s comments on election cause stir
As Myanmar is approaching the general election scheduled for this Sunday a warning early this week on how the poll is being handled from a powerful military general has raised concern and unease, and drawn strong reaction from the government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD).
According to the Irrawaddy news website, military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing made the comments in an interview with a Yangon-based news outlet on Tuesday.
It said the senior general appeared to be sending a message that if the NLD wins again in this election, the military will not sit idly by. It said military leaders and some opposition parties have long cast doubt over the credibility and impartiality of the Union Election Commission.
Government spokesman U Zaw Htay hit back yesterday, saying that the general was inciting instability and causing public concern with his comments which also allegedly violated the Constitution.
The general’s remarks followed a statement also critical of the handling of the election issued by the military a day earlier.
“The Tatmadaw’s latest statement, which is based on groundless allegations by some political parties and individuals, is unhelpful to efforts to hold a free and fair election, but instead instigates concerns and instability,” said U Zaw Htay.
He added that the military chief’s interview “did not comply with the essence of the Constitution and the law which states that civil servants, including the military and police, must be free from party politics.”
According to the Irrawaddy, the military in its statement accused the election commission ofincompetence, particularly regarding voter-list errors, disputes over early voting and weak supervision of political parties’ campaigning amid COVID-19 restrictions.
It stated that “the government has complete responsibility for all the intentional and unintentional mistakes of the commission at its different levels”.
U Zaw Htay maintained that the government is trying to hold a free and fair election, despite COVID-19, and that many allegations have been unfair. But he acknowledged issues surrounding the UEC’s lack of logistical management over envelopes for votes and ballots boxes.
The Irrawaddy said coming days before the Nov–8 election, the general’s interview prompted questions among political observers and diplomats in Yangon.
NLD, led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, won the general election in 2015 in a landslide victory. However, the military still wields significant power in the country.