Thanks for joining us for live coverage of Myanmar’s 2020 general election. You can read more about the election on our election page.
- The National League for Democracy says it has already secured two-thirds of elected seats in the national legislature, which means it will be able to choose the next president and form government. The party is closing in on 400 seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, after winning 390 seats in the 2015 election.
- The Union Election Commission is beginning to announce official results, but vote counting is still continuing in some constituencies.
- The Union Solidarity and Development Party has refused to accept its crushing loss, claiming the election was unfair and signalled it is planning to challenge the outcome.
- A total of 5,643 candidates stood for election across 1,119 constituencies in national and regional legislatures. It could be weeks before we know the final turnout, but large numbers of voters defied the COVID-19 pandemic to cast their votes on election day.
- Due to travel restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, our reporters and photographers are reporting from Yangon. But we’ll also be working the phones and relying on our network of sources and contributors to bring you the latest news from around the country.
That’s a wrap!
That’s right, we’re signing off – this will be the final liveblog post from the Frontier team for the 2020 general election.
Thanks to all of you who followed us over the past couple of days. We’ve had a lot of fun bringing you updates and we hope they helped tell at least part of the story of this year’s election.
The news hasn’t completely dried up – the USDP has gone into meltdown and the Union Election Commission is (finally!) getting around to confirming the outcome of races – but it won’t change the key takeaway: the National League for Democracy has pulled off a stunning win and appears on track to better its 2015 result. You can read our wrap on the election outcome here.
We’re turning our attention to features and analysis of the vote for our next issue, which will be available to members on November 19 through our website.
Frontier is supported by its members, and if you’ve found our coverage helpful then we’d really appreciate it if you’d consider becoming a member to support independent journalism in Myanmar. You can find our membership packages for both individuals and institutions here.
From the Frontier team, thanks again!
Carter Center lauds a largely clean vote but cites grave legal shortcomings
Election observation group the Carter Center has commended the election commission and poll workers for pulling off an orderly and largely clean vote amid the steep challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although it noted “no major irregularities” on election day, the United States-based group, founded by former American president Jimmy Carter, said in a statement on November 10 that discriminatory measures and defects in the legal framework carried over from the last general election continue to limit democracy in Myanmar.
It was also the critical of the decision-making of the Union Election Commission, which it said “lacked transparency and openness in some instances”, adding that the commission “did not provide public access to timely election data”.
Nevertheless, the Carter Center said the election administration had “demonstrated resilience in adjusting to the challenges posed by COVID-19” to deliver a mostly smoothly run election.
The Carter Center itself had plans for a full-sized international observer mission scuppered by the pandemic and the steep barriers that Myanmar has erected to foreigners entering the country in response, such as a commercial flight ban in place since March.
Nonetheless, the group’s deployment on Sunday of 43 observers across 234 polling stations wasn’t all that smaller than its 2015 mission, when it fielded 62 observers across 245 polling stations. Voting was observed in all states and regions besides Rakhine, Kayah and Chin states and Tanintharyi Region.
However, to observe the campaign period and electoral preparations in the months leading up to the vote, the Carter Center took the unprecedented step of hiring Myanmar nationals to fill 14 long-term observer positions, though most of them had to work remotely from Yangon and interview candidates, election officials and civil society activists online or over the phone.
The group’s observers gave positive assessments to 94 percent of polling stations they observed, and overall found staff to be well trained and provisioned with the necessary materials. Vote counting was also observed to be transparent, with party agents and citizen observers allowed to scrutinise the process with few reported restrictions.
These findings largely chime with those of Myanmar’s biggest domestic observer group, the People’s alliance for Credible Elections, whose statement on November 9 – based on a considerably larger deployment of 1,885 observers– described a “peaceful” process without “major incidents” and “no major discrepancies” during the counting process.
Read the full story here.
USDP claims election unfair as candidates refuse to approve results
The Union Solidarity and Development Party is challenging the result of Sunday’s general election, claiming the election was unfair and indicating its candidates would submit formal complaints to the Union Election Commission.
Although the UEC is still certifying results, it is already clear that the National League for Democracy won the election in a landslide and may even outdo its 2015 victory.
The USDP suffered a humiliating defeat in the November 8 vote, ceding most of its remaining seats in the Bamar-majority regions to the NLD and losing comprehensively in most contests.
It doesn’t appear to be taking the loss well.
In a video posted to its Facebook page this afternoon, party chair U Than Htay claimed the election had been unfairly conducted and urged the public to send in evidence of “fraud” to the USDP so it could mount legal challenges.
Than Htay said the party is going to “try to make things right legally”, suggesting the party will formally object to the outcome.
It’s not clear exactly what he meant, but candidates are able to file objections to the result of individual races within 45 days of their certification. These objections are heard by UEC-appointed tribunals, which after hearing evidence have the power to deny elected lawmakers their seats and hand them to the runners-up in the contest.
Tribunal decisions cannot be appealed to an independent court, and require complainants to pay a K500,000 filing fee. The process is also slow. Forty-four tribunal cases were heard after the 2015 general election, but only two were concluded by the time the new government was formed in late March 2016 and a new UEC was appointed.
NLD spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt told Frontier that if the USDP believes the election was not free and fair, it should gather evidence, submit it to the UEC and request another election.
“There are legal procedures for that,” he said. “Those who refuse to accept the results will be responsible for the consequences.”
The USDP also appears to have instructed its candidates not to confirm the results of their races, and some party officials told Frontier they intend to file objections to the election commission.
Last night a photo of a statement from the Union Solidarity and Development Party headquarters in Nay Pyi Taw began circulating on Facebook, in which it instructed its candidates not to sign what is known as a Form 19, which contains the tabulated results of a constituency.
Candidates are supposed to sign the form with the relevant township election sub-commission to confirm the results of the race they participated in. Refusing to sign will have little effect on the election outcome, as a signature is not required from all candidates for the township sub-commissions to submit a Form 19 to higher levels of the UEC for certification.
For full story, see here.
NLD sweeps Ayeyarwady
National League for Democracy spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt has confirmed to Frontier that the NLD has won all constituencies in Ayeyarwady Region, according to data from party polling station representatives.
The party picked up the Ngapudaw-1 seat in the regional hluttaw, which was previously held by the Union Solidarity and Development Party. The NLD’s U Win Htay received 26,228 votes to U Htein Win of the USDP’s 21,800 votes, out of 50,614 ballots cast. That’s 51.8% for the NLD and 43pc for the USDP. In 2015 the USDP received 44.8pc of the vote to the NLD’s 42pc.
“It was the party supporters’ commitment and dedication that was key to our victory,” said Dr Myo Nyunt, NLD central executive committee member.
Results generally echoed 2015. In the Pyithu Hluttaw race in Hinthada, former Tatmadaw general and USDP candidate U Htay Oo lost by nearly 75,000 votes to the NLD’s U Win Zaw Moe, who racked up 138,687 votes to Htay Oo’s 64,264. In 2015 the USDP candidate, who was also Htay Oo, received 67,198 votes to the NLD’s 114,163.
In Pantanaw, the NLD held its Phyithu Hluttaw seat in a race against former Karen National Union central executive committee member Padoh Mahn Nyein Maung, who ran for the Kayin People’s Party. The NLD first won the seat with 47pc of the vote in 2015, to the USDP’s 40.1pc and the KPP’s less than 3pc.
The results were unsurprising for Ayeyarwaddy, where the delta dissipates into the Bay of Bengal. The region is predominantly home to Bamar and Karen fishers and rice farmers, with Rakhine communities as well – it shares a border with the western state – and is an NLD stronghold. In 2015 the party swept all Amyotha Hluttaw seats, won 46 regional hluttaw seats to the USDP’s three, and 25 Pyithu Hluttaw seats to the USDP’s one. The NLD also won the Rakhine and Kayin ethnic affairs ministers.
In all, this year’s sweep includes 26 Pyithu Hluttaw seats, 12 Amyotha Hluttaw seats and 52 seats in the regional hluttaw.
Votes for Karen and Rakhine ethnic affairs ministers are still being counted. – Kaung Hset Naing
Turnout eclipses 2015 in Magway as NLD wins big, again
The National League for Democracy appears to have done it again in Magway, with preliminary results showing the NLD is on track to win at least 87 of 88 seats, and is expected to replicate its clean sweep of five years ago.
According to figures from the regional election sub-commission, more than 2.6 million voters participated in the election for a turnout of 78.58pc, up from about 76pc in 2015, defying fears that the COVID-19 pandemic might dampen turnout.
National League for Democracy campaign chair for Magway U Tar told Magway Post that the party had again won a “resounding victory” in the region, with its candidates even receiving 100 percent of the votes at some polling stations.
The party has won 25 Pyithu Hluttaw seats, 12 Amyotha Hluttaw seats and 50 region hluttaw seats, U Tar said, although he cautioned that the Union Election Commission is yet to confirm the results.
The only seat that seems to be in doubt is the Chin ethnic affairs minister, which can only be decided when votes from all townships are tabulated at the region level. However, the NLD holds this seat and is expected to win it again.
U Tar said that while the party did well it still lost some polling booths.
“In some polling booths we won 100pc, but at some we had narrow wins and in others we had narrow losses,” he said.
Yesterday, a district election sub-commission official said results sent from township sub-commissions were still being audited at the district level.
U Win Sein, head of the Pakokku District election sub-commission, confirmed that the NLD was “leading” by huge margins in most seats over the USDP.
“The numbers seem decisive – for instance, the NLD has 80,000 votes and the USD less than 15,000. Other parties got vote tallies just in the four digits,” he said. – Magway Post
Dancing in the street
While the National League for Democracy was expected to win big, the party did even better than most had expected, flipping strongholds of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in southern Mandalay Region and winning in ethnic states where observers anticipated greater challenges from newly unified ethnic parties.
In Yangon, outside of the NLD’s head office on Shwegondine Road, it was all cause for celebration. For the second night in a row, supporters clad in red lined both sides of the street, dancing and chanting and waving flags. Frontier photographers were there to capture it.
Election observers point to successful vote
Observers of Sunday’s poll have spoken of a peaceful vote nationwide, despite some issues with election observers being unable to enter polling stations.
Yangon-based election observer group People’s Alliance for Credible Elections released its preliminary findings on Monday, saying that election day “was peaceful, and no major incidents were reported”.
PACE said that the elections were held smoothly, except for the fact that some of their observers were not allowed to observe at some polling stations due to a “misunderstanding of the role and regulation of observers by the sub-commission and polling station officials”.
“Some members of my observer group reported that [polling staff] had asked for permission from relevant township-level officials, and there were not enough UEC permission cards in some polling stations. I think the UEC’s procedural requirements need to be amended,” Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, Executive Director of PACE, said at a press conference on Monday.
PACE said that at 92 percent of polling stations, its observers were allowed to observe the voting process from inside polling stations all the time, while 6pc reported being allowed to observe from outside the polling stations and 2pc said they were “asked to leave at times”.
A major challenge in Sunday’s vote was conducting a safe election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In its findings, PACE said that all polling stations were prepared with COVID-19 precautionary measures and that “the majority” of polling stations were able to enforce the wearing of masks for voters, but that in more than a quarter of polling stations, social distancing was not practiced while voters were queueing.
PACE sent a total of 1,885 short-term observers and 307 long-term observers to monitor the election.
Meanwhile, Yohei Sasakawa, leader of the Japanese government’s election observer team, said in a Zoom press conference on Monday afternoon that the election was free and fair based on what he had observed.
Sasakawa conducted observations at 10 polling stations in Yangon Region.
“Voters used their right as citizens openly. The polling stations also arranged COVID-19 preventive measuers,” he said. “I think international observation groups will recognise that the election is fair.”
Before the vote, Sasakawa said he met with UEC Chair U Hla Thein and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. Sasakawa congratulated the UEC for holding the election successfully, and said he believes the Tatmadaw will cooperate with the new government when it is formed in March.
He added that Japan would continue its close relationship with the Myanmar government, and committed to his country’s continued support for Myanmar’s peace process.
International observers have raised concerns about the fairness of Myanmar’s election, pointing to discriminatory citizenship laws that bar minorities from voting and running as candidates, the widespread cancellation of polling in ethnic minority areas, and concerns about the independence of the UEC. – Naw Betty Han and Swe Lei Mon
Election wrap: NLD claims huge victory as USDP crashes and ethnic parties struggle
National League for Democracy officials say the party has won a huge majority in yesterday’s election, and may even eclipse its historic landslide win of five years ago.
Although vote-counting is continuing in many parts of the country and the Union Election Commission has only just started confirming results, the party says it has already secured enough seats to select the president and form government.
The NLD needed 322 seats to gain an absolutely majority in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which will ensure its choice of president wins the Presidential Electoral College and forms the next government. The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw comprises the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) and Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house).
NLD spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt told Frontier this morning that the party’s internal results showed it had already won enough seats to form government, and was just waiting for the UEC to confirm the official results.
The UEC began announcing the first results this evening, but the outcome of the election does not appear to be in any doubt.
“We have won almost every seat in the [Bamar-majority] regions. We are leading in all of the seats where we won in 2015. Based on the figures from our township offices, we can say that we will be able to form government,” Myo Nyunt said.
He said that the party would not file any complaints to the UEC and would face any objections from other parties through the legal process.
Sensing victory was imminent, thousands of NLD supporters gathered outside the party’s Yangon headquarters in Bahan Township on election night, ignoring requests from party officials to disperse.
Even larger crowds have gathered at the Bahan office this evening, with supporters waving flags, holding pictures of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and clapping and cheering. – Ei Ei Toe Lwin
Read the full story here.
NLD wins majority in Kayah, but tensions on display
Officials from the National League for Democracy and the Kayah State Democratic Party have confirmed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party have won a majority in Kayah State, sweeping a total of 20 seats in the easterly region. They include four in the Pyithu Hluttaw, seven in the Amyotha Hluttaw and nine in the state hluttaw, including the minister for Bamar ethnic affairs.
The Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP), a merger between Kayah ethnic parties that competed in the 2015 election, came second state-wide, winning eight seats in total – two in the Pyithu Hluttaw, three in the Amyotha Hluttaw and three in the state hluttaw – followed by the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party with six, including all seats in Bawlakhe Township – one in the Pyithu Hluttaw, two in the Amyotha Hluttaw and three in the state hluttaw.
U Thaung Htay, the NLD chair for Kayah State, confirmed his party won all seats in Loikaw, Mese, Hpasawng and Demoso townships.
“We lost all seats in Bawlakhe, Hpruso and Shadaw,” Thaung Htay said, adding that the party expected to struggle in Bawlakhe due to the heavy presence of military personnel, as well as former naval commander U Soe Thane, the successful USDP candidate for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat who has lavished funds on the thinly populated township. “But in Shadaw and Hpruso, we were defeated by the [Kayah] ethnic party, with the support of the KNPP [Karenni National Progressive Party].”
The KNPP is an ethnic armed group that signed a ceasefire with the government in 2012 but has not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
Mari Tun, secretary of the KySDP, said the party performed worse than expected, having hoped for a majority in Demoso, among other townships. In the end, the party won all seats in Hpruso, and three in Shadaw.
“The final result is worse than we expected,” Mari Tun admitted, adding that during election campaigning local people appeared to show support for his party. He alleged that some political parties provided “donations” to voters as the election approached, which may have changed their decisions.
Mari Tun rejected accusations that his party was able to win seats due to support from the KNPP armed group as “unacceptable”.
“We could not win in Demoso, which is a KNPP-dominated area, and many [Kayah] ethnic people are living there. We don’t deny the KNPP supports us, but we can’t win everywhere just with the support of the KNPP,” he said.
Despite the NLD’s success in Myanmar’s smallest state, its position in the state hluttaw could be weakened if the KySDP, the USDP and military appointees form a coalition. With the five military appointees guaranteed under the constitution, the grouping’s number of seats in the state hluttaw would total 11 to the NLD’s nine.
Thaung Htay, from the NLD, hinted at a potential fraught relationship with the other parties in the state in the future, but urged them to work for the good of the country.
“They always attack the NLD, and are against the NLD when they reach parliament. Government cannot work smoothly [this way],” he said. “It’s good if they want to cooperate with the NLD government and help implement the government’s activities.”
However, Thaung Htay acknowledged that a variety of political parties in parliament was good for the democratic process, and said his party would support development projects even in areas of the state they lost.
“One good thing is the check and balance system will be more active in the state parliament because of the MPs from the [Kayah] ethnic party,” he said. – Ei Ei Toe Lwin
USDP refuses to concede losses in southern Mandalay Region
The Union Solidarity and Development Party is refusing to accept the election results in four southern Mandalay Region townships where National League for Democracy candidates won all seats.
While most of Mandalay is solidly NLD territory, the towns of Pyawbwe, Yamethin, Tharsi and Meiktila, in the region’s south, have historically voted so reliably for the USDP that they’re known as Pyi Khaing Phyo Myo Lay Myo (“the four USDP towns”).
U Kyaw Myint, the USDP candidate for the Yamethin-2 seat in the regional hluttaw, said he does not believe the USDP legitimately lost in the townships and doubts the credibility of the election.
“I won’t accept the result, but I have no plan to file a complaint with the [Union Election] Commission either. I submitted an account of the situation to my party’s central committee,” he said. “The party will make an announcement about the election soon.”
The USDP’s Pyawbwe-2 candidate for the regional hluttaw, U Myint Soe, said he believes the results are illegitimate there as well, and that he will not concede the loss by signing the local sub-commission’s results. He said the NLD used its power as the ruling party to bribe the constituencies with government services – a complaint that may have landed better if made sometime before the votes were counted.
“It’s not fair. [As the election neared] the [NLD] government repaired the roads and developed the nearby villages, and they donated to the monastery. We [USDP candidates in Pyawbwe] will file complaints to the UEC,” he said. – Swe Lei Mon
Repeat of 2015 plays out in Nay Pyi Taw
In a repeat of 2015, the National League for Democracy swept every township in Nay Pyi Taw but Zayarthiri, said U Min Thu, a member of the NLD’s election campaign committee. That includes two Amyotha Hluttaw seatsn and eight Pyithu Hluttaw seats.
In Zayarthiri – where Tatmadaw commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing’s office is located – chair of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party U Than Htay beat the NLD’s Dr Moe Swe for a Pyithu Hluttaw seat by more than 5,000 votes.
The USDP won in 2010 and 2015 as well in Zayarthiri, where more than 82,000 eligible voters live. About 20,000 of them are military personnel and their families, who are often presumed to vote for the USDP.
A Nay Pyi Taw election sub-commission official denied rumours that spread on social media earlier today of election fraud at a Zayarthiri polling location.
After more than 3,000 military votes were counted at midnight, eight hours after polls had closed, rumours spread on Facebook that they had been fraudulently brought in late at night to alter poll results.
Election sub-commission member U Maung Maung said the ballots in question – 2,919 from military personnel currently outside of the constituency and another 228 from personnel who are in detention, in hospitals or are training – began arriving on October 26, and that because of high turnout they were not counted until midnight.
No fraud took place, he said, adding that party representatives and election officials all took part in the count and have accepted the ballots as legitimate.
Despite some gains, early results indicate another poor NLD showing in Shan
Party sources in Shan State say unofficial results indicate a similar outcome to the 2015 election, with the National League for Democracy trailing the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the state’s foremost ethnic party, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.
This is despite the NLD being ahead in some townships, like Lashio in northern Shan and Kengtung in eastern Shan, where it lost most or all seats five years ago, and unofficial results from across Myanmar indicating another NLD landslide victory overall.
This means that Shan, which is Myanmar’s largest state or region by landmass, will continue to be the country’s biggest political anomaly. In 2015, the USDP emerged as the largest party in the state, despite a poor showing nationally, and was able to work with the Tatmadaw to pick the speaker of the state parliament. The SNLD came second and the NLD third.
The official confirmation of results could take a while in Shan because results sheets from polling stations in poorly developed, mountainous areas of the state take time to reach township election sub-commissions, where results are formally tabulated. But the SNLD appears to be ahead in most of the 19 townships in northern Shan, which is considered the party’s stronghold. It is poised to retain its seats in Kyaukme, Hsipaw, Muse and Hseni.
In an earlier Frontier investigation into the role of conflict in the election, members of the NLD and USDP alleged that the SNLD benefits from better relations with ethnic armed groups such as the Restoration Council of Shan State, and therefore can more easily campaign in rural areas of these townships. The SNLD denies that it enjoys this advantage.
Elsewhere in northern Shan, the USDP is on top in places it won in 2015, such as Kutkai in Muse District and Laukkai and Konkyan in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, according to Dr La Sai, the party’s secretary for northern Shan. In these areas, Tatmadaw-aligned militias wield substantial power and allegedly influence the electoral process.
However, the NLD chair for northern Shan, Sai Myint Maung, told Frontier the NLD was ahead in all seats in Lashio Township, where large rural areas are also under the influence of either ethnic armed groups or Tatmadaw-aligned militias. In 2015, the NLD only won the state hluttaw seat of Lashio-1; it’s candidate, Dr Lin Htut, was later appointed chief minister of the state. He is now on track to be re-elected to that seat, despite what many describe as an underwhelming performance as Shan’s premier.
“We got more votes from [ethnic] Shan people, especially in the villages, compared to 2015,” said Myint Maung. “We campaigned hard and [the result] shows we can make people believe in our party.”
While eastern Shan is set to largely remain a USDP stronghold, the NLD appears to have won all seats in Kengtung. The USDP swept the township in 2015, though it conceded Kengtung-2 to the NLD in a 2017 by-election.
“We’re surprised to be winning the seats that we lost in the last election,” said the NLD’s Pyithu Hluttaw candidate for Kengtung, Sai Wun. “I think people have learned that they need to vote for the party that can form government and be effective in politics.”
Meanwhile in Tachileik, on the border with Thailand in eastern Shan State, NLD Pyithu Hluttaw candidate U Wun Swan says his party is on track to keep all seats in the township, which it won in 2015.
Sai Wun predicted that the USDP would win in all other townships in eastern Shan. The SNLD earlier told Frontier it was weak in these townships, allegedly due to the heavy presence of Tatmadaw-aligned militias that push voters towards the USDP.
In southern Shan, where the playing field also includes powerful local parties like the Pa-O National Organisation, which dominates the three townships of the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone, sub-regional NLD secretary U Maung Maung Sein said the NLD is leading in Taunggyi and Kalaw townships. USDP central spokesperson U Nandar Hla Myint said unofficial results indicated he had lost the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Kalaw, a popular mountain holiday town, to the incumbent, Daw Pyone Kay Thi Naing of the NLD.
NLD candidate for Kengtung Sai Wun said that, despite his party’s gains in some townships, the overall political picture in Shan was similar to five years ago.
“Although we are set to win a few more seats, I don’t think the balance of power in the state hluttaw will change much,” he said. “The USDP will still be the largest party.”
However, he noted that his party’s relatively poor performance in Shan would have little effect on the composition of the state government; the constitution allows the president to appoint the chief minister, who assembles the rest of the state cabinet.
“We will have to see how the chief minister assigned by the president performs,” Sai Wun said. – Hein Thar
NLD sweeps Bago
The NLD has won all seats in Bago Region, including the USDP stronghold of Zigon Township, party officials have declared.
Regional NLD spokesperson Ko Zayar Aung said the party has won “100 percent” of the region though it is still waiting for an official announcement from the Union Election Commisison.
“We are pleased to announce [this]. It’s a good thing for our supporters to know,” he told Frontier.
The USDP won Zigon in the 2015 election, sending former second vice-president U Nyan Tun to the Pyitthu Hluttaw. Nyan Tun did not run for re-elction this year.
The NLD’s Daw Than Aye, who just won a seat to the Pyitthu Hluttaw in Zigon, said the party had not expected to win every seat in the township.
“In 2015 the USDP ran high-profile candidates, such as the former second vice-president and [former Bago Region] chief minister [U Nyan Win],” she said.
Nyan Win did run for re-election, and lost to Than Aye.
“I think the people in Zigon want change in their township,” she said.
Newly-formed MUP wins handful of seats as NLD takes Mawlamyine
The National League for Democracy appears to have won in all constituencies in Mawlamyine Township, home of the Mon State capital.
The results, while not unexpected, are sure to disappoint members of the newly-formed Mon Unity Party, which contested seats in every constituency in the state. Some 40,000 Myanmar nationals had registered to cast votes from Thailand, where they live and work. Many of them are ethnic Mon, and the MUP had hoped that, by unifying support at home and capturing much of these migrant voters abroad, it could steal seats from the NLD. But, as Frontier reported just before election day, migrants faced a series of hurdles to voting. COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented many from traveling to their home constituencies to cast ballots, and for others living and working far from the Myanmar embassy and consulate in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where ballots had to be cast, the cost in travel and time off work was also formidable. For others, language difficulties and a mid-August deadline for applications made registering itself near impossible.
The impact of migrant voting is unclear at this point, but it did not prove decisive in the way the MUP had hoped. The party did win 11 seats statewide, including three Amyotha Hluttaw seats, two Pyithu Hluttaw seats and six seats in the state hluttaw, according to Nai Layi Tama, MUP secretary and spokesperson.
“Our candidates also ran in Kawkareik and Kyainseikgyi townships in Kayin State and we do not know the result there as our the candidates have yet to send them,” he told Frontier.
He said the party accepts the will of the voters and declined to comment further on the results.
Nai Min Lat, who ran as an MUP candidate for a state hluttaw seat in Thanbyuzayat Township, said that, while the party performed below its expectations, he’s happy for the seats they’ve won, because he knows those MPs will “work for the people”.“It’s too early to comment on why the results did not meet our expectations,” he said, but added, “we could not do enough campaigning or meet with the public as much as we wanted to because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” – Naw Betty Han
Rakhine parties fall just short of majority in state hluttaw
Rakhine parties look like they are on track to have the largest bloc of votes in the Rakhine State Hluttaw, despite voting in most of their core constituencies being cancelled on security grounds – but they will fall just short of a majority in the chamber.
Although votes are still being tallied in five townships, early results suggest the Arakan National Party will win seven seats and the Arakan Front Party two more, for a combined nine seats in the 20-member chamber, which will include five military representatives.
The ANP has managed to snatch Taungup from the National League for Democracy and appears on track for a win in Munaung, which also went to the NLD in 2015. It is also expected to pick up Ramree and Sittwe, where the party won in 2015.
The NLD has retained its foothold in southern Rakhine, winning four Rakhine State Hluttaw seats in Gwa and Thandwe, and is expected to also win the Chin ethnic affairs minister post, for a total of just five seats. The Union Solidarity and Development Party is on track to have a single seat, Ann-1.
In Pyithu Hluttaw results, the ANP is expected to hold four seats, the NLD two, the AFP one and USDP one. The ANP will have at least two Amyotha Hluttaw seats and the NLD one, with two more yet to be called.
The results suggest that the Arakan National Party would almost certainly have had a large majority if voting had gone ahead in all parts of the state. In October, the Union Election Commission cancelled voting completely in nine of 17 townships and cancelled it partially in three others (Ann, Taungup and Kyaukphyu) due to security concerns.
In total, nine Pyithu Hluttaw, seven Amyotha Hluttaw and 20 state hluttaw seats were cancelled, most of which were held by the ANP.
Read the full story here.
Suffering big losses, KSPP calls foul on election process
The NLD is likely to win most constituencies in Myitkyina, according to Ndaung Hka Naw San, the NLD candidate for the Amyotha Hluttaw seat of Kachin-11, which encompasses the Kachin State capital. “I am very sure the NLD is going to win all four seats in Myitkyina,” he told Frontier around 8:30am this morning.
While official results are still forthcoming from the Union Election Commission, the National League for Democracy appears to have won a majority of races throughout the state as well, said freelance reporter Yan Aung Htun, who was collecting results from individual polling stations throughout the day.
One exception appears to be Injangyang Township, a very small electorate where the Kachin State People’s Party seems to have done well, and where voting was cancelled in many village tracts on security grounds.
In 2015 the NLD won a plurality – nearly half – of votes in the state. The KSPP, formed by members of several smaller ethnic nationality parties in June 2019, had hoped that by unifying they might be able to win seats from the NLD, which they feel has further marginalised ethnic groups. “They [the NLD] persuaded the Kachin public and made many promises they did not fulfill,” Myo Lat Aung, treasurer of the KSPP’s youth wing, told Frontier in October. “Our ethnic rights have been neglected.”
Party representatives are understandably upset with the results, and some are calling the whole process unfair. Doi Bu, the party’s deputy chair, said guidelines issued by the UEC to prevent the spread of the coronavirus gave the NLD a campaign advantage relative to ethnic parties.
“While our campaigns were muted, they [the NLD] were absolutely free to use their resources to campaign and rally,” she told Frontier. “The nature of the campaign and election – and our unfair, underserved defeat – has taken away our belief in a parliamentary path towards federal democracy.”
She also alleged the party has proof that NLD officials had tampered with ballots and committed voter fraud, but said the party does not plan to file complaints with the UEC.
Candidates and voters can challenge the result of any race within 45 days of the confirmation of results. On payment of K500,000, this triggers a tribunal overseen by the UEC, whose members are wholly appointed by the president for a term that coincides with that of the government. UEC tribunal decisions cannot be appealed to an independent court.
“The UEC is not an independent entity. It’s under the sway of the NLD, so what difference would it make?” she said. – Pyae Sone Aung
NLD set to post huge win in Chin State: sources
A media organisation in Chin State is reporting an overwhelming victory for the National League for Democracy, improving even further on its performance in the 2015 election.
Figures from Khonumthung Media Group show that the NLD won 35 of 39 seats in Chin State, up from 28 in 2015.
In the Pyithu Hluttaw the NLD won all seats except Tonzang, which went to the Zomi Congress for Democracy. In the Amyotha Hluttaw, the NLD only lost one seat, with the Chin National League for Democracy winning a constituency encompassing part of Hakha Township.
The NLD will have a big majority in the state hluttaw, claiming 16 of the 18 seats up for grabs. The CNLD and ZCD both won a single seat each, in Hakha and Tonzang, respectively.
The USDP failed to win a seat, after claiming five seats back in 2015.
We should caution that these are unofficial results, but other sources are also pointing to a big NLD victory.
“Chin State is redder this time than in 2015,” Vungh Khen Mung, a ZCD member, told Frontier this morning, confirming that the party had won only two seats.
For example, in Tedim Township, which was split between the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the Zomi Congress for Democracy in 2015, the NLD won all five seats. – Pyae Sone Aung
NLD confident of even bigger win than 2015
National League for Democracy officials say they have secured enough seats to select the president and form the next government, and are confident the party may even improve on its 2015 landslide victory.
The NLD needed 322 seats to gain an absolute majority in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which will ensure its choice of president wins the Presidential Electoral College and forms the next government.
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw comprises the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) and Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house).
NLD spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt told Frontier this morning that the party’s internal results showed it had already won enough seats to form government, and was just waiting for the UEC to confirm the official numbers.
The UEC is expected to announce the first batch of results soon, and says it will issue updates at noon, 4pm and 8pm each day.
“We have won almost every seat in the [Bamar-majority] regions. We are leading in all of the seats where we won in 2015. Based on the figures from our township offices, we can say that we will be able to form government,” he said.
He said that the party would not file any complaints to the UEC and would face any objections from other parties in accordance with the law.
Sources close to the NLD told Frontier the win may be even larger than in 2015, when the party won 390 seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.
“We expect to win more seats than 2015 – that’s our prediction. Votes are still being counted and the situation might change when the final results come out. But it’s quite certain we have won more than 322 seats,” one source said.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein, the executive director of the Bayda Institute, an NLD-affiliated think tank, posted on his Facebook account this morning that the NLD had already won 285 seats out of 291 seats in the seven regions. He said the NLD has a strong chance of winning at least 90 or 100 Union-level seats in the states – far more than it requires for an absolute majority in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.
“If we get at least 37 seats from the states, we can form a government,” he wrote.
Prior to the vote the Bayda Institute predicted the NLD would win at least 377 seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and up to 400 seats – a result that it appears on track to achieve.
The stunning win appears to include victories in a number of constituencies in Sagaing, Mandalay and Bago regions that the USDP held in 2015, such as Zigon, Pyawbwe and Yamethin.
Although ethnic parties in some parts of the country have performed better than in 2015 – notably in Kayah and Mon states – in other areas the NLD seems to have held or even bettered its performance five years ago, including Chin and Kachin states. The next Pyidaungsu Hluttaw will have a total of 642 representatives, as 22 seats have been cancelled, the majority in Rakhine State. The constitution guarantees the military 25 percent of seats, or 166 representatives. – Ei Ei Toe Lwin and Ye Mon
UEC says email address hacked
The Union Election Commission issued a statement this morning announcing that its email address had been hacked.
The UEC said it had “controlled” the problem by 8:30pm last night.
However, it’s asking anyone who receives an email from the address firstname.lastname@example.org to report it to the commission on 067-3404315.
Former USDP strongholds in Mandalay Region ‘all red now’
Sources tell Frontier that the National League for Democract has won all seats in the southern Mandalay Region townships of Meiktila, Pyawbwe, Yamethin and Tharzi.
While the rest of the region is reliably NLD territory, the four southern townships have historically been a centre of Buddhist nationalism and a stronghold of the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party – so much so that they are known collectively as Pyi Khaing Phyo Myo Lay Myo (“the four USDP towns”). For crucial context, read Swe Lei Mon’s feature, “Keeping the faith”, and our series of articles on Pyawbwe in the Tale of Five Elections series.
U Lwin Maung Maung, who appears to have won the Meiktila-1 seat in the regional hluttaw for the NLD, told Frontier he beat his USDP rival U Aung Kyaw Moe by a slim margin of about 1,000 votes.
“My constituency has the most military polling stations [in Meiktila], but I’ve heard that a lot of military families voted for me. I really thank them,” he said.
He said the largest margin the NLD won by in the constituency was Dr Sint Soe’s race for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat, in which he beat the USDP’s Dr Maung Thin by more than 15,000 votes.
The region had been the scene of at least one violent confrontation between supporters of the two main national parties during this year’s campaign, which was marred by a marked increase in violence in general from 2015.
Pyawbwe NLD chair U Aye Cho told Frontier the party had reversed all its losses in 2015 there and in Yamethin and Tharzi as well.
“In Pyawbwe, we won with more than 10,000 votes than the USDP. The Union Election Commission will announce it soon,” he said. “Yamethin and Tharzi are all red now.” – Swe Lei Mon
NLD says it has won 37 seats as parties wait on election commission
Results continue to trickle in from around the country this morning, with all early indications pointing to very strong support for the National League for Democracy.
The Union Election Commission is yet to release any official results, and has said it will issue announcements at noon, 4pm and 8pm each day until they are complete. We’ll share those announcements as they come in, and we’ll also be bringing you updates from around the country
In the meantime, there are a number of unofficial sources of early results to draw on.
The most reliable seems to be the National League for Democracy’s election dashboard, which says the party has won 14 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw and 23 in state and region hluttaws, with no results yet from the Amyotha Hluttaw.
The seats the party has already called for itself include the six downtown Yangon townships and a handful of inner suburbs, as well as a smattering of constituencies in Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay Regions, as well as Nay Pyi Taw.
Other sources suggest the Union Solidarity and Development Party has won a handful of seats, including Zayarthiri in Nay Pyi Taw, where around a quarter of the electorate are military personnel and their family members, and Bawlakhe in Kayah State.
Also in Kayah State, the Kayah State Democratic Party has chalked up a victory in the tiny electorate of Shadaw and is confident of winning several more seats, but we’re still waiting for more details.
The Kachin State People’s Party also seems to have won Injangyang in Kachin State, another very small electorate.
Vote counting still seems to be going on in some areas, however, particularly in large electorates in the ethnic minority states.
Military voters stay ‘loyal’ in Rakhine State’s Ann Township
There was speculation that the Union Election Commission’s headline reform of making Tatmadaw soldiers and their families vote outside of cantonments would make this segment of the electorate vote differently. In earlier elections, they have been a reliable vote bank for the Union Solidarity and Development Party, and many attributed this to the fact that they had to vote in their bases, under the noses of their superiors. Free from this context, they might feel less obligated to vote for the military-aligned party.
But in two polling stations located in civilian areas that were assigned to military voters in Rakhine State’s Ann Township, home of the Tatmadaw’s Western Command, it seems to be par for the course, with a block vote for the USDP.
U Htun Htun Naing, Arakan National Party candidate for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat for Ann, told Frontier that in Ann Taung ward’s No.4 polling station, which was reserved for soldiers and their dependents, the USDP Pyithu Hluttaw candidate U Tin Aung won 285 votes, while the runner-up, NLD candidate Daw Nyan Myint Yee, won only 5 votes. Htun Htun Naing himself got two.
Meanwhile, at Lone Kauk village tract’s No.6 polling station, also reserved for military voters, the USDP’s Tin Aung got 440 votes. Htun Htun Naing was the joint runner-up in this case with the Arakan League for Democracy’s U Tin Yee, both of whom got three votes.
These military votes will have an outsized role in determining who wins seats in Ann because voting was only held in four wards and four village tracts of the township. The other 28 wards and village tracts were subject to the voting cancellations that disenfranchised 1.2 million, or 73 percent, of Rakhine’s eligible voters. While 73,000 people could vote in Ann in the 2015 election, this time only about 22,000 were able to. Of these voters, about 4,000 were military personnel, who occupied four out of 26 polling stations.
The USDP took the Pyithu Hluttaw seat for Ann and the state hluttaw seat of Ann-1 in 2015, though the former seat was later taken by then-ANP chair Dr Aye Maung in a 2017 by-election. The ANP won the other state constituency, Ann-2, in 2015. However, the cancellation of village tracts for this election was such that the race for Ann-2 could not go ahead, unlike the two other seats. – Kaung Hset Naing
Long wait for results in Shan, Kachin states
Don’t expect any results tonight from Shan or Kachin states.
We’ve been checking in with candidates and party officials in Lashio, Kengtung and Myitkyina, and it sounds like the vote-counting could go on well into tomorrow. Outside of these major cities, where roads are often poor, the process of tallying votes could take even longer.
In Kengtung in eastern Shan State, advance votes were still being counted at around 10pm and the final result would likely be announced sometime on November 9, said Sai Wun, the NLD’s Pyithu Hluttaw candidate for the township.
“We don’t know anything about the result yet; even the advance votes are not finished. We’re also waiting for the result but it will be impossible to get it today. I think they will stop counting votes after midnight because of the curfew,” he told Frontier.
U Sai Aung, the head of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy branch in northern Shan State, said the party was performing strongly. He said the party would likely perform better than in 2015 and he expected it to win a significant number of seats.
However, he said the counting of votes had been slow due to a lack of polling station staff. “For example, in Lashio there are about 2,000 votes to count in a single polling station, but only three staff have been assigned. This is likely to cause delays.”
In Myitkyina, freelance reporter Ko Yan Aung Htun said that the polling station he was monitoring had begun by counting Pyithu Hluttaw votes and the NLD was leading over the USDP.
Kachin State People’s Party candidate Seng Nu Pan said at around 10pm that the polling stations had barely finished counting advance votes, let alone those cast on the day, so expected vote counting would continue well into November 9.
Meanwhile, in the Karen National Union’s Brigade 6 area in Kayin State’s Kyainseikgyi Township, the early results were looking good for the Karen National Democratic Party.
Saw Than Htay, a resident of Kyun Chaung village tract, said the KNDP had won two polling stations in the Kayin State Hluttaw constituency of Kyainseikgyi-2, both in KNU-held territory.
He said the KNDP had won in Kyun Chaung and Koma village tracts, but he had not yet heard results from the remaining polling stations.
Polling stations in Hpa-Pya village tract were still counting votes at 11pm and expected to wrap up by midnight, locals said.
– Hein Thar, Pyae Sone Aung, Ye Mon, Naw Betty Han
NLD expected to secure big wins in Yangon, Mandalay
Unofficial results suggest a strong performance from the National League for Democracy in Yangon and Mandalay, both cities in which it dominated back in 2015.
The seemingly high turnout despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw voters queue for hours at some polling stations, is thought to have benefited the party.
In Yangon, the handful of results available suggest the NLD will retain a large number of its seats. However, official results are yet to be released.
NLD officials told Frontier they had won all of the seats in Seikgyikanaungto, South Okkalapa and Mayangone, while figures from polling stations in other townships also pointed to likely victories for the party.
High-profile candidates from “third force” parties, including People’s Party founder U Ko Ko Gyi and People’s Pioneer Party leader Daw Thet Thet Khine, were unsuccessful in their bids to unseat NLD incumbents.
In Mayangone, senior NLD member Daw May Win Myint won re-election to the Pyithu Hluttaw against the challenge of Thet Thet Khine. In the township’s region hluttaw seats, U Yan Shin and Daw Moe Moe Suu Kyi were also re-elected. “The result is a clear victory,” said Yan Shin. “We won most of the polling stations.”
Sensing another resounding victory was on the cards, thousands of people headed to the NLD’s head office in Yangon’s Bahan Township to celebrate, in defiance of COVID-19 regulations. They also ignored requests from party officials to disperse.
The NLD is said to have also performed strongly in Mandalay, which it won even more convincingly than Yangon in 2015.
As in Yangon, boisterous NLD supporters are celebrating in the streets in Mandalay. They’ve ignored a request from chief minister U Zaw Myint Maung, the party’s vice chair-2, to go and wait for the results at home. – Kaung Htet Naing, Hein Thar, Pyae Sone Aung
NLD and Mon Unity Party look set to split Mon State
Mixed results are filtering in from Mon State, where it seems the Mon Unity Party may have made some inroads into the National League for Democracy’s large majority.
The MUP, formed as a result of a 2019 merger between two existing Mon parties, seems to have performed strongly south of the state capital Mawlamyine, including in Chaungzon Township.
Nevertheless, the NLD seems likely to hold many of its seats in Mawlamyine and the north of the state, including Kyaikto and Bilin.
Polling station observers say the NLD has the upper hand in Mawlamyine. U Kyaw Kyaw Han, who oversees No 1 polling station in Kayin Chaung ward, said that the NLD is ahead in most polling stations on the eastern side of the city.
“At our polling station, the NLD had double the number of votes [of the runner up]. Vote counting is not over yet but so far it seems that only the NLD is likely to win,” he said.
He added that he had heard that the NLD was winning at other polling stations in Shwe Myaing Thiri.
“What we have heard from other polling station officials is that the NLD has the upper hand in many polling stations in the city,” Kyaw Kyaw Han said.
On the other side of Mawlamyine, Ko Nay Min, a Mawlamyine-based journalist, said the NLD was leading at station No 1 in Pabedan ward.
He said the vote counting was likely to be completed by midnight and exact results would be released on November 9.
Outside the city though it seems to be a different story. In Chaungzon, on Bilu Kyun (Ogre Island), just over the Thanlwin River from Mawlamyine, the MUP is leading and is likely to win, said resident Mi San San Oo.
“We walked around the polling stations and asked who was leading. In every one of them, the Mon party was winning. The commission hasn’t yet announced the results but it seems that the MUP will win in Chaungzon,” she said.
Frontier understands that the MUP is also performing strongly in Thanbyuzayat and Mudon townships, while the NLD has the upper hand in Kyaikto. – Naw Betty Han
NLD performing poorly in Kayah State
The chair of the National League for Democracy branch for Kayah State said the party expects to lose a significant number of seats it won in 2015.
As mentioned earlier, the Union Solidarity and Development Party seems almost certain to retain its five seats in Bawlakhe.
But in 2015, the NLD dominated other parts of the state, winning 26 of the remaining 29 seats (it later lost one at a by-election). It looks like it will struggle to replicate that performance, and seems unlikely to have a majority of elected seats in the 20-member Kayah State Hluttaw.
U Thaung Htay, the NLD chief for Kayah State, confirmed the party had lost all seats not only in Bawlakhe but also Shadaw.
In Shadaw, the Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP) appears to have won all of the seats, he said. Among the winners is activist Maw Moe Myar, who Thaung Htay said had defeated incumbent Pyithu Hluttaw representative Wint War Tun.
Thaung Htay said further losses were likely in Hpruso, where the KySDP was on track for victory.
“But we will still won a majority in Loikaw, Mese and Hpasawng,” Thaung Htay said.
The NLD campaign has been dogged by the recenimpeachment of the party’s unpopular chief minister, L Phaung Sho, but Thaung Htay said there were other reasons for the loss.
In Shadaw, he said military votes had decided. Soldiers had been moved to the township shortly before the election, he claimed. He also alleged that that the Karenni National Progressive Party, an ethnic armed group, had influenced the outcome in Hpruso.
“The KNPP asked villagers to vote for the KySDP. We have evidence and we are considering filing a complaint to the election commission after the final result comes out.”
KySDP secretary Mari Tun said preliminary results suggested the party had won the majority of seats in Demoso and Hpruso. “The situation is better than we expected, but we cannot confirm how many seats we will win in the whole of Kayah state,” Mari Tun said.
USDP secretary Maw Reh said he could not confirm the results until tomorrow morning. – Ei Ei Toe Lwin
USDP set for victory in Bawlakhe Township
A National League for Democracy official in Kayah State’s Bawlakhe Township has all but conceded defeat, citing the retired naval commander and former president’s office minister U Soe Thane as a decisive factor.
Sai Gyi, chair of the NLD branch in Bawlakhe, told Frontier he was expecting the party to lose all five seats – one Pyithu Hluttaw, two Amyotha and two state hluttaw – to the USDP.
Sai Gyi said he had hoped the NLD could wrest at least three seats from the USDP. However, the influence of Soe Thane, who is contesting the Pyithu Hluttaw seat in Bawlakhe, had proven decisive.
“Based on preliminary results, we are likely to lose all seats because of the big influence of U Soe Thane and military votes. I am so angry now – why haven’t Bawlakhe residents changed their mindset?” an emotional Sai Gyi told Frontier.
“I don’t understand why they expect a lot from U Soe Thane. Actually the mount they get is very little – only K10,000 or K20,000,” he said.
Sai Gyi said he planned to file a complaint to police against some people in Wunpalet village as they threatened locals before election day. “Strong supporters of U Soe Thane told local people that they would be killed if they voted for the NLD. I have evidence. I will sue them according to the law,” he said.
U Kyaw Than, a USDP candidate for the Ayotha Hluttaw in Kayah-3, which includes part pf Bawlakhe, said he had won at some polling stations. “Normal votes are still being counted. We can’t know yet who will win,” Kyaw Than said.
The final result is expected to be confirmed around midnight.
Frontier has been following the campaign in Bawlakhe closely this year – you can read our coverage on the township here. – Ei Ei Toe Lwin
The NLD calls the Yangon island of Seikgyikanaungto for itself
The National League for Democracy’s information officer for Seikgyikanaungto Township in Yangon Region told Frontier the ruling party has prevailed in every single polling station on the small island in the Twante canal, southwest of downtown Yangon.
Information officer U Win Naing said this was based on tallies collected by the NLD’s polling station agents, who observed the counting process that kicked off shortly after polling closed at 4pm.
However, township election sub-commission member U Thit Lwin said he could not confirm the results for the township because they had “not been calculated yet”. He suggested a confirmed result could be ready before midnight.
Because counting takes place in polling stations, parties with a large network of accredited agents are quickly able to harvest and combine results from across a township, before the results sheets are physically transported to township sub-commission offices for official tabulation.
Seikgyikanaungto has more than 37,000 voters and 35 polling stations. NLD candidates comfortably won all seats in the township in 2015 with more than half the vote. This year, the Pyithu Hluttaw seat is being contested for the Union Solidarity and Development Party by U Khin Yee, a retired police chief and former irrigation minister. – Naw Betty Han
Voter turnout was so high in the polling station for the Khalal village tract in Kyainseikgyi Township, Kayin State, that vote counting could not begin until after 8pm.
Advance votes are now being counted and the National League for Democracy appears to be leading, election observers say. The party won in the village tract in 2015 and is expected to win again this year. – Naw Betty Han
NLD gets early edge in USDP Dry Zone stronghold
Early results suggest the National League for Democracy is polling well in Union Solidarity and Development Party-held seats in central Myanmar.
The USDP has an “island of green” comprising the townships of Meiktila, Yamethin, Pyawbwe and Thazi in southern Mandalay Region, which were among the few seats it retained in the 2015 election. For illuminating context on this key electoral battleground, and the role that Buddhist nationalism allegedly played in engineering USDP victories five years ago, look no further than reporter Swe Lei Mon’s feature, “Keeping the faith”. The swing township of Pyawbwe is also profiled in our “Tale of Five Elections” series.
There’s still a long way to go, but some early results suggest the NLD might be making some headway into snatching the seats.
At polling station No 5 in Meiktila’s Yan Myo Aung ward, formerly known as Mingalar Zay Yone ward, all NLD candidates won wth more than 550 votes, while the candidates from the USDP received between 220 and 230, 88 Generation student U Htein Min Khaing posted on Facebook.
Although the NLD was expected to poll best in the town, there was also a promising result from the countryside, with the NLD candidates gaining 340 to 350 votes each in Latpan Kaung village, ahead of the USDP candidates with 300 to 310.
U Tun Tun Myint, a resident of Yamethin, said he had heard the NLD was leading in some stations in Yamethin and Thazi townships.
“In polling stations in the villages of Yamethin like Htan Taw, Lwazin Khin and Thaphay San, the NLD is at least 100 votes up on the USDP,” he said.
But the vote counting process in town was still continuing at 9 pm. “We are still counting now. The results will be out soon,” said Amay Htway, an activist in Yamethin.
Yamethin-based Thilawa Media reported that at polling station No 1 in Pyawbwe’s Shwe Pyi Yan Aung ward, Dr. Win Maung from the NLD got 290 votes in the Pyithu Hluttaw race, ahead of incumbent U Thaung Aye from the USDP on 96 votes. – Swe Lei Mon
Thousands gather to celebrate at NLD headquarters, ignoring requests to leave
Vote counting is continuing around the country, but thousands of people have already started gathering in front of the National League for Democracy’s head office in Yangon’s Bahan Township in anticipation of a victory for the party.
In the last general election in 2015, tens of thousands of supporters gathered outside the NLD’s headquarters to wait for results and celebrate the party’s victory.
The crowd began to gather at 6:30pm and within an hour had grown to around 3,000 people, well above the limit the Ministry of Health and Sports has set for public gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The crowd has ignored requests from party officials for them to leave the area.
Both sides of West Shwegonedine Road are lined with party supporters, and traffic police are struggling to create a corridor for cars to pass through.
Supporters are chanting “NLD must win” and “Amay (mother) Suu must win”, clapping loudly and waving NLD flags.
“We can’t even think about the virus – it’s totally fine if I’m infected. I will celebrate all night,” said Daw Wai Mar Kyi Lwin, a woman in her 40s wearing a mask with a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi and waving an NLD flag.
Although results have not yet been released, early counting has the NLD far ahead in most seats in Yangon Region.
Early reports from Facebook of a strong NLD performance appear to have encouraged many to head to Shwegonedine to celebrate.
One young couple told Frontier they came to celebrate, “because we are sure that the NLD has won”.
A monk in the crowd said he had come because he was “85 percent sure” that the NLD had won and wanted to honour the party.
Some had already dispensed with the popular chant “NLD must win” and were instead shouting “NLD has won”. – Hein Thar, Pyae Sone Aung
NLD leads advance vote count in Dala, as residents still queue to vote
The NLD is also performing strongly in advance votes in Dala’s Kyan Sit Thar ward, claiming around two-thirds of the votes
Counting is going on as dozens of voters wait in the dark for the chance to cast their ballots. Although polling stations closed at 4pm, they were given more time to complete the voting process because they were already inside the compound.
In the Pyithu Hluttaw race, Dr Sein Mya Aye from the NLD got 41 of the 55 advance votes cast, while Daw Kay Thi Win from the USDP received nine.
In the Amyotha Hluttaw it was even more one-sided, with U Kyaw Soe Moe from the NLD getting 41 votes and U San Win from USDP eight votes.
Out of 55 advance votes for Dala-2 in the Yangon Region Hluttaw, U Bo Bo Oo from NLD got 38 votes and U Nyan Aung from the USDP received six votes. – Swe Lei Mon
Facebook hate continued today but largely failed to go viral
Months ago, Facebook announced it had taken special measures to prevent its platform from being used to unduly influence or disturb today’s vote. These include removing “verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumors”, using artificial intelligence to identify hate speech, limiting the number of times a message can be forwarded, and partnering with fact-checking teams in the country.
Despite these measures, Frontier spotted a number of false or malicious posts today on Facebook, most of them in groups of supporters of the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party. None, however, seemed to be going viral, and they were largely confined to a niche corner of Facebook made up of NLD-haters and Tatmadaw supporters.
They include an image (see above) of an outstretched hand with finger puppets resembling jihadist fighters on each finger, and the National League for Democracy logo on a sleeve below. An accompanying caption reads: “Be aware that if you vote for the NLD, the western part of the country will be insecure and our sovereignty will be lost”. It’s a clear reference to Rakhine State, described by nationalists as Myanmar’s “western gate” because of the alleged threat posed by Muslim immigration from Bangladesh — a narrative of fear that has driven the persecution of the Rohingya.
One post shared on a group for USDP supporters, which has been shared at least 145 times, claims – without evidence – that the National League for Democracy has spent K24 billion (US$19 million) on “hiring foreigners” over the past year.
Another post, again shared in a USDP supporters’ group, mentioned the still-unexplained explosion at the Bago Region election sub-commission office in the city of Bago on Friday afternoon, claiming that election commission officials were responsible because they are the only ones who had the necessary access.
“We are seeing a lot of misinformation that instigates fear among voters,” Ko Htun Khine, editor of fact-checking organisation Real or Not, said in a webinar earlier today. “For instance, there were a lot of rumours about the [Bago] explosion case.”
Another post, again in a pro-USDP group, has what appears to be a doctored photo (see below) of popular mixed martial arts fighter Aung La Nsang wearing a USDP t-shirt.
In other hateful content, a video shared from Tigyaing Township in Sagaing Region shows a man wearing a military university jacket saying, “If Aung San Suu Kyi comes, kalar will follow”. “Kalar” is a racial epithet commonly used against people of South Asian descent, in particular Muslims.
Voters abandon queues, go home in southern Tanintharyi Region
High turnout created problems at polling stations in far southern Tanintharyi Region, where there are reports of voters going home without voting after having queued for hours in the heat.
Voting in the regional capital of Dawei, however, was reportedly much calmer, despite a bomb scare on November 5, when three remote-controlled explosives were found in at least three different locations. Police are questioning a suspect arrested on November 6 in Launglon Township’s Thabaw Seik village. More than 30 items used to make the explosives, including potassium nitrate, sulphur, a soldering iron and charging cables, were found at the suspect’s home, police said.
Two underage voters were detained for allegedly casting ballots on behalf of eligible voters – a 13-year-old boy at the Pone Kyun polling station in San Chi ward, and a 17-year-old boy at a polling station in the Daung Ngu ward in Dawei.
About 40 employees at the International Fish Auction Market in Myeik town said they were unable to vote because election sub-commission officials did not collect their names to put on voter lists.
In Yebyu Township, the administrator of Paleku village tract said two strangers seen loitering at the community’s polling station were later found to be Tatmadaw personnel. The plain-clothed pair had no ID on them, and were reported to the township administrator and the police. They were subsequently identified as a warrant officer and a private from the No. 406 Infantry Regiment, based elsewhere. The men were later handed over to their regiment. – Dawei Watch
Strong start for the NLD in Dagon Township
If the advance vote counting in one Dagon Township polling station is anything to go by, this could be a very, very one-sided election in Yangon’s urban areas.
When the advance votes were read out for the Pyithu Hluttaw contest at that polling station, the NLD won around 90 percent. The party’s candidate, Dr Than Aung Soe, claimed 267, ahead of the USDP candidate, former Pyithu Hluttaw Deputy Speaker U Nanda Kyaw Swar, on just 11. – Ye Mon
Two arrested for alleged voter fraud in militia stronghold
At least two people in Kutkai Township, northern Shan State, have been arrested for alleged voter fraud on election day, local sources say.
U Maw Htun Aung, Amyotha Hluttaw candidate for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, said he had witnessed two incidents of voter fraud at polling station number 6 in Tarmoenye, Kutkai Township, one in which a person voted twice, and another of someone using another person’s identity card to vote.
“This happened just in front of me, so we are trying to take action. Before we got here, I heard two similar fraudulent cases in this station but the supervisor let them go. I don’t know why,” Maw Htun Aung told Frontier.
U Jel Sam, chairman of the Kutkai Township election sub-commission, said that action had been taken against two suspects because there were witnesses to their alleged crimes. No action was taken related to other complaints because of a lack of evidence, he said.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party hold a number of seats in Kutkai, an area that has become notorious in recent years as a centre for Myanmar’s billion-dollar drugs trade. A number of armed militia groups operate in the region, and U Thura Lwin, the son of Tarmoenye militia leader U Myint Lwin, is running for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat for the USDP.
U Zaw Awng, a Pyithu Hluttaw candidate for the National League for Democracy in Kutkai, told Frontier he was travelling to the scene of the dispute in Tarmoenye.
“It is very difficult to have free elections in Kutkai, where there are many armed groups. This [voter] fraud is due to the insurgents and their pressure. It is undeniable,” he said.
The election has taken place amid a tense atmosphere in northern Shan State. Sai Myint Maung, chairman of the NLD in the area, said a bullet was found in polling station number 9, in Number 12 Ward, Lashio Township, at about 10am this morning.
For more on conflict and the election, see our recent feature, “Bombs and ballots: How conflict shapes elections in Myanmar”. – Hein Thar
Chaos and confusion at Hlaing Tharyar polling stations
There were already 10 voters ahead of him when U Aung Myo Thu, 41, arrived at 5:30am at the polling station in the Basic Education High School No. 14, in the eastern voting district of Yangon’s industrial Hlaing Tharyar Township.
“Other voters at polling stations [in the township] have already voted and gone home. But we’re still here waiting,” he told Frontier at about 7am. “I came here early because I have to go to work, but I’ve had to wait more than an hour, for no reason.”
He was only one of several voters unhappy with the election process in the city’s most populous township. Several others told Frontier they’d checked their names on voter lists during display periods in previous months, only to find they were not on the list when they showed up to the polls on election day.
“I am not a foreign citizen. I must have the right to vote,” said Ma Aye Than, 37, a Hlaing Tharyar resident who officials would not let vote because her name was not on the voting lists. “Three of my family members were on the list but I am not.”
She said she too had arrived around 5:30am and had waited hours only to find she couldn’t vote. “I will not go home until I have the chance to vote. I will wait for them to fix this,” she said.
While voting seemed to go smoothly elsewhere in Yangon, in Hlaing Tharyar, many said they’d run into similar problems.
Because of its ballooning population, the government decided last year to split Hlaing Tharyar into two townships. Although the division of administrative structures is still in process, the Union Election Commission is treating the area as two townships, East and West Hlaing Tharyar, giving the area two Pyithu Hluttaw and four regional hluttaw constituencies, as well as one Amyotha Hluttaw constituency.
A previous Frontier investigation flagged the risk of mass disenfranchisement in Hlaing Tharyar and other Yangon industrial areas because of their large, transient populations of internal migrants and the cumbersome bureaucratic process that migrants need to undergo in order to register to vote locally.
The East Hlaing Tharyar election sub-commission secretary U Ye Kyaw Thu said over 25,000 voters had applied to have their names corrected or added to earlier voter lists there, but that there were just too many voters for a single sub-commission to handle.
“Hlaing Tharyar is just too populous. Even this eastern sub-division has 360,000 registered voters,” he told Frontier. “With so many voters, some may have been overlooked.”
By 11am, security personnel had come to remove a man who’d begun shouting at election officials, and blaming the Union Election Commission for stealing his vote. – Htin Lynn Aung
Hundreds of quarantined COVID-19 patients miss out on voting
More than 280 eligible voters being treated at the Inya COVID-19 Centre in Mayangone Township have missed out on voting because their ballot papers failed to arrive by 4pm.
On November 6, the centre asked around 300 patients to fill out Form-15 to cast an advance vote but only 10 ballots arrived, said Ko Aung Aung, a COVID-19 patient at the centre.
“We were waiting for the ballot papers to arrive. When the centre was notified that the ballots hadn’t arrived by 3pm, the centre contacted the Mayangone Township election sub-commission office,” he said.
“After 4pm, the centre management said that although it had tried to contact the sub-commission, they hadn’t responded in time so we had lost our right to vote.
“We are more sad about losing our rights as citizens than we are about not being able to vote for the NLD.”
Officials from the Inya Centre declined to comment, referring questions to the township sub-commission, which could not be reached for comment.
Voting continues past 4pm in Nay Pyi Taw’s Zabuthiri Township
Although polling stations officially close at 4pm, voting can continue if voters are inside the compound when the gates shut.
At polling station No 6 in Nay Pyi Taw’s Zabuthiri Township, hundreds of people were still waiting outside the polling station and worried about missing out on the chance to vote. Polling officers eventually took them into the compound before closing the gates.
Zabuthiri Township has more than 86,000 registered voters, most of whom are civil servants.
Vote counting starts early in Kayah’s Bawlakhe
Vote counting began early at some polling stations in Kayah State’s Bawlakhe Township, said Sai Lin Lin Oo from the National League for Democracy, who is seeking election to the township’s Pyithu Hluttaw seat.
“There were only a few hundred voters at some polling stations where the count has begun, but no results have been announced,” he told Frontier.
The counting at some of the township’s 16 polling stations started around 2pm, two hours before it was supposed to.
“If they waited until after 4pm to begin, the count would be late, so they began counting early with the agreement of all candidates’ representatives,” Sai Lin Lin Oo said.
There’s a big field of hopefuls in Bawlakhe, with about 40 candidates from eight parties, and an independent, competing for five seats, of which four are held by the Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The USDP candidates include former Thein Sein government minister, U Soe Thane, who is competing against Sai Lin Lin for the Pyithu Huttaw seat.
Bawlakhe has three Tatmadaw battalions and a Border Guard Force base and there are about 980 military personnel and their families among the 8,000 voters in Bawlakhe, said the township election sub-commission. – Ei Ei Toe Lwin
Sesame harvest forces down turnout among Lisu farmers
A Lisu National Development Party candidate told Frontier that many among its ethnic Lisu voter base in Kachin State’s Momauk Township have been unable to vote because of the sesame harvest, though Frontier was unable to get a clear idea of the numbers affected.
While voters were turning out in large numbers elsewhere in the country, many Lisu were toiling in fields at least a day’s travel from where they are registered to vote.
“I requested that the election commission arrange for advance voting for these farmers, but the commission denied it,” Ko Yang Sar, LNDP candidate for the regional hluttaw seat of Momauk-2, told Frontier about a half hour before polls closed at 4pm. –Pyae Sone Aung
Vote counting underway in some polling stations
Frontier reporters say vote counting has gotten underway in some polling stations, but not others. In some places, voting is not yet complete because eligible voters were waiting inside the polling station compound at the 4pm deadline, and will be given more time to cast their ballots.
Vote counting is underway at stations in Kyauktada, Dagon, Mingalar Taung Nyunt and Seikgyikanaungto townships. In Mingalar Taung Nyunt, we were denied access to a polling station despite having accreditation.
At stations in Dala and Hlaing Tharyar, polling station officials were still preparing to count votes. Officials at Basic Education High School 14 in Hlaing Tharyar, which includes 29 polling stations, said around half of those on the voter list had cast ballots during the day, but there were also hundreds who were unable to vote because they were not on the list.
At some polling stations, voters were still waiting in line at 4pm. Those who were in the polling station compound when it closed are still allowed to vote.
Despite cancellations, election enthusiasm on show in southern Rakhine
The cancellation of voting in large parts of Rakhine State may have dominated much of the narrative in the build-up to the vote, but there was high voter turnout and enthusiasm in the south of the state, notably Taungup, Thandwe, Gwa and Ann, local candidates say.
“There are many voters in Gwa and Thandwe. Everyone is actively voting, and there are crowds in some polling stations in Gwa,” said U Soe Win, a National League for Democracy candidate for the Amyotha Hluttaw seat of Rakhine-11, which encompasses Gwa and Thandwe.
In Taungup, where voting took place in just four wards due to the cancellations, the situation is stable and there has been a large turnout at polling stations, said U Myo Swe, the Arakan League for Democracy’s Amyotha Hluttaw candidate there.
“The situation is peaceful. Many people have voted,” he said, adding that in some polling stations people were turned away because they were not on the voter list.
In Ann, where voting is taking place in just four wards and four village tracts, the voting process has been slow due to the small number of polling stations, said U Khaing Kaung San of the Rakhine State Election Monitoring Group, which is monitoring polling stations.
“In some polling stations, only one-third of votes have been completed,” he told Frontier by phone at about 2pm. Voting stations close at 4pm, although eligible voters who are inside the compound at 4pm are still allowed to cast their ballot.
In mid-October, the Union Election Commission announced the cancellation of voting in nine of Rakhine’s 17 constituencies, as well as other parts of the country, citing security reasons.
In Dala, polls close with hundreds yet to vote
With polls set to close in ten minutes, hundreds of people stood outside the Kyan Sit Thar ward polling station in Dala Township, just south of downtown Yangon across the Yangon River, yet to cast their votes.
A polling official urged many of them to step inside the school where the polling was being done before the 4pm closing time.
“To make sure you don’t lose your right to vote in the 2020 election, please enter the building now,” he said, loudly but politely. “At 4 pm, we will close the door immediately.”
Inside, hundreds of people stood in two lines, trying to fill out and submit their ballots before the 2020 general election ended. – Swe Lei Mon, photos by Nyein Su Wai Kyaw Soe
Unsigned ballots reported in Mandalay Region
At 11am, Ko Phone Myint Zaw arrived to cast his ballot at polling station 3 in the Aung Tharyar ward of Mandalay’s Chan Mya Tharzi Township.
After successfully voting for Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha hluttaw seats, he realised the ballot he had for the Mandalay regional hluttaw did not bear the polling station officer’s signature, which is necessary to make the vote valid. When he grabbed the larger book of 50 ballots that his had come from, he saw that none of the ballots were signed.
Fortunately, the ballot book was new, and only two voters had used ballots from it before him.
“I am not sure if other [ballot] books for the regional hluttaw are the same though,” he told Frontier.
Phone Myint Zaw said election officials stopped him from taking photos of the unsigned ballot book, but not before he was able to snap one and share it on Facebook.
Election officials said they will find the two voters that voted before Phone Myint Zaw and bring them back to cast valid ballots.
“I will visit the polling station in the evening when the votes are being counted and pressure election officials to not count invalid votes … that have no polling officer signature,” he told Frontier. “Whether they did this intentionally or not, it is their responsibility [to fix it].” – Pyae Sone Aung
‘Like the new year festival’: Polling stations packed in KNU-controlled village tracts
Voters in the Hpa Pya and Khala village tracts, in the Karen National Union-controlled Winyaw region of Kyainseikgyi Township, share one polling station, and it has been jam-packed all day, said Saw Thar Aye, a Hpa Aye villager.
The KNU has been facilitating voting in the region, and helping transport villages from their home tracts to polling locations.
“They come with truck after truck to vote in our village. The crowd is like the new year festival,” he told Frontier. – Naw Betty Han, photos by Pho Darr Bo.
Tensions high in Seikgyikanaungto as voters wait for up to nine hours
Voters have begun shouting and jostling for position at a polling centre in Yangon’s Seikgyikanaungto Township after being forced to wait hours in line to cast their ballots.
Election sub-commission officials and candidates said the long wait was because three polling stations, each with around 1,500 voters, have been set up inside a single precinct, Seikgyikanaungto’s Basic Education Primary School 2.
When Frontier visited the polling centre at after 2pm, some voters had already been waiting nine hours, having arrived around 5am.
“I have been waiting here since 10 am and I’m not even close to the start of the queue,” said Daw Aey Win, 49. “I’m worried I won’t be able to vote because I will not get to the front by 4pm when the station closes.”
Many in the line were getting visibly frustrated, with voters yelling at each other not to jump the queue and urging officials to get the line moving faster.
The large line also made social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 all but impossible.
“People have been waiting since early morning,” National League for Democracy candidate U Tint San, who had come to observe voting at the station, told Frontier at 2:20pm. “Some voters are shouting because there’s a lot of pushing and jostling, and also the weather is very hot. We have reported the situation to the Union Election Commission. Less than 50 percent of the voters have cast a vote so far.”
U Thit Lwin, a member of township election sub-commission, said they are making arrangements to ensure that everybody who is in the polling centre compound when it closes at 4pm will be able to vote.
“We are preparing to demarcate the precinct of the polling station based on the numbers of the people in line. The situation is not convenient for them because three polling stations are open at one site,” Thit Lwin said.
However, with less than 90 minutes to go until the polling centre closes, there were still more than 400 people lined up waiting to get in the compound. It’s not clear whether all of them will get the chance to vote.
Packed polling stations and a smear campaign in Tanintharyi Region
Our friends at Dawei Watch have reported a hefty turnout in townships across Tanintharyi Region, but the application of health measures has varied. In polling stations in the regional capital Dawei, reporters noted ubiquitous face-mask wearing and routine hand-washing, but in Bokpyin Township further south, even the wearing of face-masks has been sparse. Social distancing in polling station queues, however, has rarely been observed, even in Dawei.
For most voters, it seems, the desire to vote outweighed the risk from COVID-19.
“I am afraid of COVID, but I have to turn out and vote for the sake of the country,” Daw Mya Han, a voter from Kan Tharyar village in Myeik Township told Dawei Watch.
The regional capital has been hit by a rare example of overt negative campaigning. Police have removed multiple posters, seemingly put up early this morning or overnight in a number of locations in Dawei, that exhort voters not to cast ballots for U Aung Win, National League for Democracy candidate for Dawei-2 in the regional parliament. The posters state that Aung Win, who has held the Amyotha Hluttaw seat for Dawei since the 2015 election, has made no proposals and asked no questions in parliament on behalf of constituents, making him unfit for re-election to any seat.
In an earlier feature published by Frontier, Dawei Watch described a widely shared feeling among local people that the election in Tanintharyi will be a walkover for the NLD, which took all seats in the region in 2015. Although locals tend to claim a proud local identity that is distinct from the Bamar of central Myanmar, Tanintharyi has not seen the same backlash against the NLD reported in other ethnic minority areas of Myanmar. A local ethnic party, the Dawei Nationalities Party, is only contesting a minority of seats, confined to the regional hluttaw, and is thought to have little chance of success.
USDP candidate rep arrested with ballots, stamps in Mon State
A representative of a Union Solidarity and Development Party candidate has been arrested in Mon State’s Ye Township after she was found with what appeared to be fake ballots and stamps.
The woman was detained at polling station No 6 in Asin San Pya village. National League for Democracy candidate for Ye-2, U Kyaw Moe Aye, said the woman had caught the attention of polling station officials because she was repeatedly entering and exiting the building.
“The chief polling station officer noticed she was behaving suspiciously and when they checked a plastic bag she was carrying they found fake ballot papers and stamps,” he said.
Videos of the polling station officials searching the woman’s bag are being circulated on Facebook.
Daw War War Cho, secretary of the Ye township election sub-commission, confirmed that the woman was a representative of a USDP candidate. The chair of the village tract election sub-commission has filed a complaint to police.“She is at the Ye Township police station,” War War Cho said, adding that it was not clear what offence the woman might be charged with. – Ye Mon
‘I will be happy if the NLD wins’: Meiktila’s Muslims cast their votes
Members of Meiktila’s Muslim community turned out to vote this morning, as the town still feels the effects of anti-Muslim riots in 2013.
About 4,000 mostly Muslim voters cast their ballots at three polling stations in Chan Aye Tharyar and Nan Daw Gone wards. Seven years ago more than 700 homes were burned in Chan Aye Tharyar, about 90 percent of them Muslim-owned.
U Than Naing, a 55-year-old voter, said: “I cast my vote freely. I voted for the National League for Democracy because I believe in it … I will be happy if the [NLD] wins … I hope it will return our freedom. Freedom means we can travel anywhere and do anything, and we do not feel wretched anymore.”
He said it was the third time he had voted, having previously cast ballots in 2010 and 2015. Although he didn’t know the name of the candidates he voted for, he said he recognised their face.
Meiktila Township has 251,687 eligible voters and 291 polling stations, figures from the Meiktila Township election sub-commission show.
For more on how Muslims in Meiktila see the election, see our earlier feature, “‘We have nothing to rely on but Allah’: Meiktila’s Muslims see little hope in election”. – Soe Moe
A outlier village in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s constituency sticks with opposition USDP
In the constituency of National League for Democracy chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, voters at at least two polling stations are turning out for the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Although the NLD swept Kawmhu Township in 2015, Thamin Chan (Deer Farm) village has always remained a USDP stronghold. This year may prove no different. Frontier spoke with five voters that had just returned from polling stations, and all five said they’d voted for the USDP.
Ko Hein Thu Phyo, 24, said he voted for the military party in 2015, his first election as a voter, as well. He supports the party, he said, because he believes any development the town has seen has been because of the military and USDP governments.
“I think they developed the village, so I should show them my thanks by voting them,” he said.
Daw Myo Myo Chit, said she and her nine relatives also all voted for the USDP.
“My late father liked the USDP, so we all like the USDP. And our village school became a high school under the USDP government, so we should thank them,” she said.
But the USDP is not guaranteed a win here. There are about 1,000 eligible voters in Thamin Chan, and NLD polling station representative Daw Aye Aye Myint says she still believes her party can win here. – Swe Lei Mon
And in far, far northern Myanmar…
Residents in one of the country’s most remote townships appear to be turning out in large numbers to vote today.
Ma Nawm Nawm, a resident of Namyun Township in the Naga Self-Administered Zone, sent us these pictures of locals lining up to vote this morning.
All three Pyithu Hluttaw seats in the Naga SAZ (Namyun, Lahe, Leshi) are held by the National League for Democracy.
Social distancing lacking at Dala polling stations
High voter turnout at polling stations in Yangon’s Dala Township this morning has meant that many people were not adhering to social distancing rules, as Myanmar’s vote takes place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On election day, Frontier visited 21 polling stations across three wards in Dala, opposite the Yangon River from the commercial capital, to understand people’s attitudes to voting during the health crisis.
“They are very eager to vote. Therefore, there are difficulties getting them to obey social distancing,” U Thet Khaing, chairman of the Kyan Sit Thar ward election sub-commission, told Frontier.
Officials from the Dala Township election sub-commission are distributing masks and hand sanitiser to voters, and measuring their body temperature.
An estimated 11,000 people are registered to vote at the polling station in Kyan Sit Thar, of whom more than 1,300 have cast advance votes.
“I saw most people coming to polling stations to vote are lacking social distancing. But I stayed six feet away from people to prevent a COVID-19 infection,” said Daw Myat Khine, a resident of 11-14 ward in Dala.
An estimated 4,635 people are expected to vote at the 11-14 ward polling station, according to local officials.
“The election is held during the COVID-19 pandemic, so some people won’t come to vote for fear of [catching] COVID-19,” said U Zaw Myo Win, administrator of Myo Ma 4 ward polling station, where more than 3,500 people are expected to cast their ballot. – Aung Phay Kyi Soe
‘All we have here are go-voters’: Dala turnout high, says NLD candidate
“We have no ‘no-voters’ here,” incumbent Pyithu Hluttaw MP Dr Sein Mya Aye (National League for Democracy) said, referring to the counter-election campaign urging voters to boycott the polls until the military-drafted 2008 Constitution is substantively reformed. “All we have here are ‘go-voters.’”
Voters have been lined up outside of polling stations in the township since they opened, at 6am, and the lines persisted as morning became early afternoon. Sein Mya Aye said his constituents are not afraid of COVID-19.
In 2015, NLD candidates won every seat in the township. Sein Mya Aye said he is confident of a repeat sweep this year. – Swe Lei Mon
Mayangone military voters turn out in force
Tatmadaw personnel and their families have been turning out in large numbers to vote at a military polling station in Mayangone Township’s No 7 ward near the military headquarters in Yangon.
Many queued for up to three hours before casting their vote.
“The party that the whole family voted for is in our minds, we won’t say its name,” said Ma Aye Thida Myint, 58, a member of a Tatmadaw family, who voted with her son and daughter at polling station 4 in ward 7.
“Everything is fine; we voted freely,” said Aye Thida Myint, adding that a long queue meant she had to wait “a long time” to cast her ballot. “But no problem, it was smooth inside the polling station. They gave me a mask and I had to wash my hands; we are not worried [about COVID-19],” she said.
There are more than 5,300 military voters in Mayangone Township, the highest number of any township in Yangon’s Western District. – Kaung Hset Naing
Voter in Dala sent to hospital with high fever
A man with a high temperature who tried to vote at a polling station in Yangon’s Dala Township has been sent to Dala General hospital at about 10:30am, Myo Ma ward administrator U Zaw Myo Win says.
“When the health officer tested him with a non-contact thermometer, his temperature was high. After testing him twice, with a 15-minute gap, we sent him to hospital,” Zaw Myo Win told Frontier.
The 32-year-old motorcycle driver is one of 3,643 voters registered at the Myo Ma 4 polling station in Dala.
As of November 7, there had been 1,081 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Dala Township. – Aung Phay Kyi Soe
Voters hot and bothered at some polling stations in Myitkyina
There have been complaints about voting arrangements in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina, where the Kachin State People’s Party, formed last year by a coalition of four ethnic-based parties that competed against each other in 2015, is hoping to wrest seats from the National League for Democracy.
In the city’s Laykone ward, election officials refused to allow voters to form long queues, instead asking them to vote according to their number on voter lists. The instruction meant that people could not vote according to their place in the queue, as at most other polling stations, angering some voters, who returned home.
In Ingyindone ward, a long queue of voters at a polling station baked under the sun, with no shade and nowhere to sit. Some voters went home and said they would return to cast their ballots in the cool of the evening.
Ma Seng Nu Pan, a KSPP candidate seeking election to the Pyithu Hluttaw in Myitkyina, was dismayed by people returning home without voting.
“I’m worried they will not come back,” she told Frontier at 10.30am.Seng Nu Pan said voters at some polling stations in Myitkyina had complained that election officials were giving Tatmadaw soldiers and their families preferential treatment and allowing them to vote before others in queues. “Why are they privileged?” said Seng Nu Pan.
Voters prove eager in eastern Shan
Indications are of a strong voter turnout in eastern Shan State, despite some seemingly minor procedural hiccups at polling stations.
There are long queues at polling stations in Kengtung Township, according to local sources. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party is the party to beat this year, having won all four seats corresponding with the township in 2015.
Sai Wun, the National League for Democracy’s candidate for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat in Kengtung, told Frontier at 10am that the voting process was going smoothly, except for in one polling station where voters had been issued with two ballot papers for the Amyotha Hluttaw race and none for the Pyithu Hluttaw.
“We are trying to find out what exactly the problem was,” he said, suggesting that people would be able to vote again with the correct ballots.
In Kengtung, the NLD and USDP are up against the the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, as well as smaller parties such as the Wa National Party and the Lahu National Development Party.
“I’m pleased with the current voter turnout in the township. The people are really keen to vote for their favourite parties,” said Sai Lone Kyouk, the SNLD’s Pyithu Hluttaw candidate in Kengtung.
About 100 miles further south, in Tachileik Township on the border with Thailand, where the NLD won all seats in 2015, people were queueing well before the polling stations opened at 6am.
Ko Kyaw Swar, a Tachileik resident, said he had been queuing since 4am to vote. He hoped for “no conflicts during the election and after the announcement [of results]”.
In Tachileik, the NLD is competing against parties including the USDP, SNLD, LNDP, WNP, the Shan Nationalities Development Party and the Union Betterment Party.
Shan State is one of the most ethnically diverse parts of Myanmar, and as well as the candidates for Pyithu, Amyotha and state hluttaws, ethnic minorities will be voting for Kachin, Bamar, Lisu, Lahu, Akha, Kayan and Inn ethnic affairs ministers. – Ye Mon
High turnout in Nay Pyi Taw
Polling station officials and voters in Nay Pyi Taw are reporting what seems to be a high turnout, with large numbers of people queuing up early in the morning in the capital to cast votes despite concerns about COVID-19.
U Aung Myint Sein, administrator of Mutaw village tract in Zayarthiri Township, said voters queued up before 6am. By 10am, around 45 percent of the 3,044 voters at the polling station in the village had already cast their vote, he said. A further 640 votes were cast in advance, taking turnout up to almost 65pc with six hours until the polling station was due to close.
There are more than 900,000 eligible voters in Nay Pyi Taw’s eight townships, dispersed across 646 polling stations.
A total of 66 candidates are competing, including eight independents. The NLD holds seven Pyithu Hluttaw seats and both Amyotha Hluttaw seats, while the USDP holds the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Zayarthiri.
Soldiers vote in Meiktila
Meiktila District is home to more than 15,000 military personnel and family members, and they’re voting off base for the first time this year. Above are some shots from no 8 polling station in Meiktila’s Yadanar Mann Aung ward, where many military voters are casting ballots today. (Soe Moe | Frontier)
Polling station blocks media access
Frontier‘s Naw Betty Han reports that a polling station in Seikgyikanaungto, an Island in the Twante canal in Yangon Region, has denied her access, despite accredited journalists being formally eligible to enter polling stations to report and take photos.
Most Frontier staff have had no problem entering polling stations this morning, but a polling officer at the No 3 station in West and East Seikgyi ward has been the exception.
Polling station staff cited a UEC announcement that nobody is allowed to take photos and videos in the compound of a polling station.
“We have to follow the UEC’s rules and regulations so we can’t permit you to enter in the station compound and take photos and videos,” said staff member Ko Kyaw Kyaw Lwin.
He stuck by his decision even after being shown the Myanmar Press Council’s November 7 announcement, which says journalists are allowed to take news and photos in the compound of a polling station but not inside the building. – Naw Betty Han
Election sub-commission alleges stamp sabotage
A minor drama has erupted in No 1 polling station in Shwe Kyar Ngone ward in Yenangyaung Township, Magway Region, after a voter apparently detached and inverted the rubber mould on a Union Election Commission stamp.
The switch occurred around 10:30am, and voters who subsequently tried to use it were unable to stamp their ballots properly.
The head of the polling station was adamant that it was sabotage. “The voter did it deliberately. The rubber stamp can be detached – it was detached and installed upside down,” said U Ye Aung, chair of the Shwe Kyar Ngone ward election sub-commission.
He said there was no plan to take action because the commission didn’t know who was responsible. The polling station has more than 600 eligible voters, of whom about 200 had already cast their this morning. – Magway Post
KNU-backed polls running smoothly, boosting Karen parties in Kayin State
Voters in the Kayin State village of Kaw Nawt lined up while social distancing this morning, mostly eager to cast their votes for Karen ethnic parties.
“I am Karen, so I have come to vote for the Karen people. I’m just looking for the Karen flag on the ballot paper,” said Naw Eh Lar Htoo, 46, a resident of the Ka Mine Kone village tract in Kawkareik Township.
The area is under the control of KNU Brigade 6. The KNU – or Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group – is helping to facilitate polling in the area and hoping to increase votes for Karen ethnic nationality parties this year.
“We Karen people can achieve our goals faster through participation in parliamentary than non-parliamentary channels,” KNU general secretary Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo told Frontier recently. “We urge all Karen to vote for Karen parties and Karen politicians.”
In previous elections, Kayin State was one of the most badly affected by security-related cancellations, with large swaths of the state closed to polling. With 135 village tracts open for voting today – an increase of 41 village tracts from 2015 – observers expect a stronger showing from Karen parties than seen five years ago, when the NLD and USDP took nearly all seats in the state.
“Actually I don’t know anyone except the Karen ethnic party candidate, so I voted for him,” Eh Lar Htoo said. – Naw Betty Han, photos by Sa Yazar Aung
U Ko Ko Gyi votes, says he ‘had no other choice but to form a party’
Prominent 88 Generation activist U Ko Ko Gyi is running for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat in his home township of South Okkalapa in Yangon for the People’s Party, which he and fellow activists established in 2018.
He’ll face difficulties winning however, as South Okkalapa is a stronghold for the ruling National League for Democracy, who has U Than Naing Soe running against Ko Ko Gyi for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat.
Frontier caught up with Ko Ko Gyi as he was voting this morning. He said the COVID-19 pandemic had heavily affected his party’s campaign and he believed it would have had a better chance if it wasn’t for the health crisis. However, he said he’ll be looking beyond today’s results.
“Our party is new and still not very popular. Also, I couldn’t connect with my voters very well, but I believe a political party focuses not on just one election. We have many ways to go and things to do,” he said.
Ko Ko Gyi was controversially not chosen as a candidate for the NLD in the 2015 election, a decision that he said surprised him. He said he had supported the NLD for a long time.
“I have learned many things about politics, and experienced politics, but I was sitting and waiting for them [the NLD]. I had no other choice so I decided to form a party myself. But I’m crazy for doing it,” he said.
Ko Ko Gyi said the People’s Party is running on a similar platform to the NLD, but with some differences. He believes the ruling party has some difficulties negotiating with other political stakeholders, but said he is ready to work with the NLD again.
“I don’t think too much about winning or losing. I want the people to think about why the election is important, and they need to seize the opportunity for five years.” – Hein Thar
Military, civilian voters cast ballots together in Magway
Magway Post editor-in-chief Nay Aung is on the ground for us in Magway, observing voting at a combined polling centre where military personnel and their families are voting alongside civilians for the first time.
The centre he’s at combines the stations from Nan Kat Kyun village tract and Chan Myay Tharyar ward. The head of the polling centre, Ko Min Kyaw Soe, says there’s about 4,000 registered voters altogether.
Everything seems to be going fairly smoothly, but the large number of people queueing up to vote and the lack of social distancing has some worried about COVID-19.
“It’s convenient for me to cast my vote here, but it’s crowded and I’m worried about infection of COVID-19,” Ma Aye Aye Than said shortly after casting her vote.
The by-law change earlier this year requiring military personnel and their families to vote at polling stations outside military bases has been widely applauded, and one military voter said he supported the shift.
“It’s the first time for us to cast our vote outside a military compound. I think it’s a good plan,” said the voter, who asked not to be named.
We’ll have more updates from Magway throughout the day. – Nay Aung
Crowds in Pathein and enfranchised Muslims in rural Mandalay Region
An election monitor who chose to remain anonymous told Frontier about large crowds forming in the Ayeyarwady Region capital Pathein from 5am, an hour before polling began. Polling officers have struggled to enforce even a semblance of social distancing at the more crowded polling centres that are assigned with more than 3,000 voters.
Meanwhile, in the Muslim-majority village of Khan Luu in Sintgaing Township, 30 kilometres south of the city of Mandalay, fears of widespread disenfranchisement are thankfully proving unfounded.
Frontier reporter Pyae Sone Aung visited the village back in August and heard of the rampant discrimination the local Muslim community faces in accessing basic citizenship documents, seemingly because of their faith, despite their families having lived in the area since the time of the Konbaung monarchs, Myanmar’s last royal dynasty, and being largely indistinguishable from their Buddhist neighbours (do read his feature story on the subject, ‘Who gets to vote?’). When several hundred of the roughly 1,500 village residents of voting age were found to be missing from the voter list during the initial July-August display period, it rang alarm bells that the barriers they face in proving citizenship would also prevent them from voting. In Myanmar, voting rights are tightly tied to citizenship, which accounts for why the largely stateless Rohingya community of northern Rakhine State are disenfranchised.
However, local Muslim farmer U Kyaw Min told Frontier late this morning that residents were not being barred from receiving ballots, implying that they were successfully enrolled on the voter list. Though no tension was evident, local volunteers who have previously been involved in mediating disputes between Buddhists and Muslims are on standby to deal with any potential commotion. Kyaw Min said a slight risk was posed by the fact that Muslims are voting alongside several hundred personnel from police, air force and military intelligence units, many of whom are based in Kyaenikan village, which neighbours Khan Luu in the same village tract.
Locals told Frontier that most Khan Luu Muslims are likely to vote for the National League for Democracy, largely because of a legacy of alleged land-grabbing in the area by the Union Solidarity and Development Association, the junta-era patriotic association that prefigured the current military-aligned opposition party, the USDP.
By voting for the NLD, Muslim residents can also vote for a candidate of their own faith. Daw Win Mya Mya, the NLD vice chair for Mandalay Region, is one of two known Muslim candidates field by the ruling party in this election and is contesting the Pyithu Hluttaw seat for Sintgaing Township. The former political prisoner was injured in the 2003 massacre of party members in the Sagaing Region town of Depayin, in which the USDA was implicated, and is said to be close to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing votes for ‘party that can work with military’
Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has cast his vote this morning at a polling station in Zayarthiri Township in Nay Pyi Taw.
It’s the first time Min Aung Hlaing – along with other military personnel and their families – has voted outside a military compound, following a change to by-laws earlier this year.
“I voted for a party that can work with the military,” he told reporters after casting his ballot. “I absolutely believe in the one who can create the better future.”
He said that he voted for the party that safeguards race, religion and the teachings of the Buddha, as well as the Tatmadaw’s three “national causes”.
President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cast advance votes this year, but Min Aung Hlaing said he voted on the day because “I wanted to cast my vote together with my colleagues and comrades”.
Zayarthiri is that rare thing in Myanmar: a Union Solidarity and Development Party safe seat in Myanmar. The party won it in both 2010 and 2015, in large part thanks to Tatmadaw votes.
Zayarthiri is home to a huge Ministry of Defence complex that is off-limits to civilians, and about a quarter of the 82,200 registered voters are military personnel and their families.
USDP chair U Than Htay is contesting the Pyithu Hluttaw seat in Zayarthiri this year, although the National League for Democracy have campaigned hard in the township, no doubt eager to inflict a humiliating defeat.
Security issues concern voters after Friday’s explosion
Frontier’s Naw Betty Han has been interviewing voters in one of Yangon’s smaller constituencies, the island of Seikgyikanaungto in the Twante canal south-west of the downtown area, which has about 26,000 voters. Among the candidates running in the township is U Khin Yi, a minister for immigration in U Thein Sein’s government. Not surprisingly he’s standing as a candidate for the Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Security issues were at the top of the minds of the voters that we spoke with as a result of the explosion at an election commission office in Bago Region on Friday. Although nobody was injured in the blast, it has clearly put some people on edge.
Ma Lae Lae Hnin Aye, a 23-year-old nurse who cast her ballot at Sate North ward 1, said while she was worried about security she was also excited to vote for the first time.
“I have no experience about elections or voting so last night I checked online how to vote. I had no trouble voting, everything was fine. Before I came and voted, I was worried about security because I heard on Facebook yesterday about the explosion. But now everything is done. I hope that my vote will help to bring about positive change for our country. I feel like I have done my duty as a Myanmar citizen.”
Ko Zaw Min Oo, a 34-year-old Muslim resident of Seikgyikanaungto, voted at the same polling station. “I’m more worried this time than in 2015 because I heard about the explosion and was afraid of something happening here. Fortunately, I’ve cast my vote and I’m so happy about it. I’ve done my duty as a citizen. I voted for the party that can make a positive change for my country in the future. I don’t want to mention the name but what I can say is I trust that they will bring benefits for our country over the next five years.” – Naw Betty Han
Voting in Dala goes into crisis mode
The voting process at Dala Township’s Kyan Sit Thar ward appears to be in crisis mode. Poll workers are using loudspeakers to urge the 100-plus voters waiting at the gate to form an orderly line, but their efforts seem to be failing. Voters who cannot find their names on the rolls have begun arguing with staff.
“I was born in this ward – why isn’t my name on the list? I’m furious,” one woman shouted.
U Myint Lwin, a member of the ward election sub-commission, told Frontier that these voters must not have checked their names on the voter lists that were twice displayed before election day.
“Most people in the ward aren’t knowledgeable about the election process. They are labourers. We announced two times the voter lists, but they never came to check,” he said.
Ma Nann Khaing, 36, said she voted in 2015 and can’t understand why her name is not on the list this year. She admitted she had not come to check before today because she “had to go to work”.
“I came here to vote for the NLD,” she told Frontier. “I am sad I can’t vote for Amay Suu.” – Swe Lei Mon
U Phyo Ko Ko, 34, waited two hours to cast his ballot at Mayangone Township’s polling station 4, at the No. 1 Primary School in the seventh ward.
More than 2,300 people are expected to vote at the polling station today, among them military members and their families. More than 100 people had waited in line with Phyo Ko Ko since polling began at 6am.
“There was no social distancing and it was uncomfortable,” he told Frontier.
“I voted for the PPP for Pyithu Hluttaw,” he said, referring to the People’s Pioneer Party, the upstart co-founded by former National League for Democracy member and jewelry magnate Daw Thet Thet Khine. He said he wanted to see change, and thinks the PPP can make that happen.
Thet Thet Khine and the PPP had campaigned aggressively in the northern Yangon suburb. It is an NLD stronghold, but the PPP may be its most competitive challenger. – Kaung Hset Naing
Health ministry assures voters of safety precautions
One of the biggest concerns today is COVID-19, and the risk that the election could be a giant super-spreader event. Although case numbers have come down since early October, Myanmar continues to record around 1,000 new cases a day. The majority of these are in Yangon, but every state and region has recorded some cases, and Bago, Rakhine and Mandalay have had significant numbers.
On Friday we got a stark reminder of the risk that COVID-19 poses to voters and electoral staff, with the sad news (via the Myanmar Teachers Federation) that a 56-year old deputy polling station officer from Thanlyin Township in Yangon Region had died suddenly of COVID-19.
But the Ministry of Health and Union Election Commission insist they’ve taken all necessary precautions to ensure people can vote safely today, but are also urging voters to follow safety guidelines in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ministry spokesperson Dr Than Naing Soe said a range of measures had been introduced to ensure social distancing, but as a result voters would only be given six to seven minutes to fill in their ballot. “We’ve made sure there’s no risk of infection during voting,” he told Frontier yesterday. “It will be safe for voters.”
Before voters are able to enter a polling station, electoral staff will check their body temperature and they’ll be required to wash their hands. Voters also need to wear a mask.
The government has spent US$28 million buying personal protective equipment from China for use on election day. The equipment has been arriving via air deliveries since the end of October and has been distributed to every state and region, government spokesman U Zaw Htay told a press briefing in Nay Pyi Taw on November 5.
The equipment includes KN95 masks, protective face masks, medical caps and protective clothing, and will be used by voters, polling station staff and volunteers.
U Myo Thein, chairman of Dala Township sub-election commission in Yangon Region, told Frontier they have provided COVID-19 protective equipment to staff at 182 polling stations. The township has more than 120,000 voters.
“The township General Administration Department was mainly in charge of distributing the COVID-19 equipment to polling stations,” he said. – Aung Phay Kyi Soe
‘Don’t think about personality, just think about the party’
South Okkalapa is one of the key election battlegrounds in Yangon because it’s where prominent 88 Generation activist U Ko Ko Gyi, who now leads the People’s Party, is contesting. South Okkalapa is his home township, so he’s got a strong local following.
Some there seem torn over who to vote for. Daw Moe Moe Aye, 40, said she was personally a fan of Ko Ko Gyi, but had voted for a different party.
“I think he is a good guy with smart perspective on political issues. But in the election we don’t think about personality, we just think about the party,” she said.
“I voted from my heart for the party that I believe in. I don’t need to say what party it is. I think 2020 is more exciting than 2015 because there is more competition among the parties.”
She said she had been mostly happy with her voting experience, although said that more could have been done to ensure social distancing.
“I heard many news and rumours that voting today would not be safe due to coronavirus,” she said. “Everything seemed safe and smooth, but the social distancing could have been better.” – Hein Thar
Voting proceeding smoothly in Dala
Ninety minutes after voting got underway, there is still a line of voters waiting patiently in front of the polling station in Dala’s 11/14 ward. Voters and polling officials said COVID-19 safety precautions were working well and there was good cooperation on both sides.
Ma Win Pa Pa Hlaing, a first-time voter, said she had no problems casting her ballot.
“It took only six or seven minutes to vote. Before I stamped the ballot paper, I checked it had been signed by the head of the polling station. I also checked the stamp to make sure my vote wouldn’t be rejected,” the 21-year-old told Frontier.
While many voters were happy to reveal who they voted for, Win Pa Pa Hlaing was more reluctant. “It’s a secret,” she said.
The 11/14 polling station is a large one – it’s actually six polling stations in a single location. Five parties are contesting in Dala, where there are more than 120,000 eligible voters. – Swe Lei Mon
If you haven’t been following the election that closely, we recommend you check out this wrap of the campaign from our chief election correspondent Ei Ei Toe Lwin. COVID-19 has disrupted the plans of many parties and affected the intensity of campaigning in a lot of areas, but it is the very public spat between the military and government over the UEC’s management of the election that has dominated headlines in the week before voting. She quotes Khin Zaw Win from Tampadipa Institute as warning that the NLD needed to “exercise more restraint in its hell-bent desire to win the election with a landslide”, and ensure the UEC acts in an impartial manner. She also writes:
Political analysts say the spat between the Tatmadaw and the government had created concern about the post-election period, especially if the UEC’s shortcomings before the ballot lead to controversy over the election results. They warn that if the UEC fails to impartially resolve any disputed election results, it could exacerbate tensions further.
There’s also some interesting research cited in her piece from the Bayda Institute, an NLD-affiliated think tank, that predicts the party is on track to secure from 377 to 400 seats, compared to 380 in 2015. This sounds a little over-optimistic to us, given the strengthening of ethnic parties, but we’ll find out soon enough.
‘I came here for the country’
When the polling station inside the primary school of Dala’s Myo Ma 4 ward in Yangon opened this morning, there were already about 60 voters lined up waiting to cast their vote.
At the head of the queue was Daw Theingi Hlaing. She told Frontier excitedly that she’d arrived at about 5:30am, together with three family members. She said she was “so proud” to be the first voter in Myo Ma 4 to cast their ballot.
“I came here for the country,” she said. “I don’t need to think about which party I’ll vote for – it’s definitely the National League for the Democracy.”
A total of 3,643 voters are registered to vote at the Myo Ma 4 polling station. When Frontier visited, polling station health officers were distributing masks to voters who had arrived without a mask. – Swe Lei Mon
For the first time, millions of people – mostly those aged over 60 – have already cast ballots before election day. Advance voting has been fairly limited in previous elections, but eligibility has been significantly expanded this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic (both to reduce crowding at polling stations and protect vulnerable populations).
The high rate of advance voting among older people has to some degree assuaged concerns that there would be low voter turnout due to concerns about COVID-19. “Despite concern over the surge in COVID-19 infections, we believe the people will come out on election day and participate in the democratic process,” NLD spokesperson Monywa Aung Shin told Frontier this week.
There had been concerns about low turnout due to COVID-19, but based now what we’ve seen so far this morning many voters (in Yangon at least) don’t seem to have been deterred.
Polling station officials are wearing N95 masks and face shields, and voters are all wearing masks too, in line with Ministry of Health and Sports rules.
Our reporters on the ground say there are quite a lot of voters lined up at polling stations in Yangon, including in South Okkalapa, Mayangone and Dala.
6am: And we’re away! Tens of thousands of polling stations across Myanmar have opened for today’s general election, and will remain open until 4pm (voters who are lined up at 4pm are still allowed to cast a ballot). We’ll have photos soon of voters arriving to cast their ballots in Yangon, where there are more than 5.6 million eligible voters and 5,809 polling stations.