Nearly 2.6 Million Minorities Face Exclusion in Myanmar’s Election

Expressing concern over these exclusions, Human Rights Watch has described the election as “fundamentally flawed”.

2 min read
File photo. People queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, November 8, 2015.

About 2.6 million ethnic-minority voters will be excluded as Myanmar goes to the general elections on Sunday, 8 November, The Guardian reports.

According to the report, an estimate of around 1.5 million voters from ethnic minorities in conflict-affected areas will not be allowed to vote on Sunday, possibly over security concerns.

Many of these are reportedly Rakhine Buddhists who were allowed to vote in 2015 but not in 2020. Polls have been cancelled across Rakhine state, Al Jazeera reports.

Additionally, there are another 1.1 million members of the Rohingya community, who have long been denied citizenship and voting rights. They have been stripped of identity documents and their temporary identity cards were made void before the 2015 election.

Expressing concern over these exclusions, Human Rights Watch has described the election as “fundamentally flawed”.

“It’s a milestone for Myanmar to be holding a second multiparty election, but however long the lines are to vote, this election will be fundamentally flawed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The election can’t be free and fair so long as a quarter of the seats are reserved for the military, access to state media isn’t equal, government critics face censorship or arrest, and Rohingya are denied participation in the vote.”

According to Al Jazeera, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said by preventing the Rohingya from voting, the country “is enforcing laws that undermine the very lifeblood of democracy”.

Second Openly Contested General Election

The polls, which will be only the second general election since the end of full military rule in the country, will elect members to both the upper house (the House of Nationalities) and the lower house (the House of Representatives) of the Assembly of the Union, as well as State and Regional Hluttaws (legislatures), according to IANS.

A total of 1,171 national, state, and regional seats will be contested.

Ahead of the polls, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed hope that the polls would help advance “inclusive sustainable development” across the country.

Calling for a "peaceful orderly and credible" election process in a statement issued by his spokesperson on Friday, Guterres hoped the vote might lead to refugee returns "in safety and dignity", UN News reported.

The 2015 election had brought Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy to power and the party is widely expected to retain power, thanks to Suu Kyi’s popularity.

(With inputs from The Guardian, Al Jazeera, IANS and Human Rights Watch.)

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