Understanding the election in Myanmar. From Sham Election to MAHLection
Elections are a fundamental element of democratic governance. They provide citizens with the opportunity to elect their leaders and hold them accountable for their actions. However, when the electoral process is manipulated, rigged, or controlled by a single entity, it can lead to the emergence of sham elections.
Sham elections are elections in which the outcome is predetermined, and the electoral process is a mere formality. These elections are characterized by a lack of transparency, fairness, and credibility. They are often used to legitimize the rule of an authoritarian regime or to provide the illusion of democracy in countries where democracy is non-existent or in decline (Withnall, 2023). One of the most common ways in which sham elections are conducted is by controlling the electoral process. This can be achieved by manipulating the voter registration process, intimidating opposition candidates and supporters, controlling the media, and manipulating the vote count. The ruling party or authoritarian regime can also use its power to limit the participation of opposition parties or to ban them altogether. In many sham elections, opposition candidates are either banned from running or face severe restrictions that make it impossible for them to compete (Jamjoom, 2023). This is often done under the pretext of national security or to prevent the emergence of extremist or radical elements. In reality, these restrictions are used to stifle dissent and prevent opposition candidates from challenging the ruling party or authoritarian regime.
Another hallmark of sham elections is the lack of independent monitoring and oversight. In a genuinely democratic election, independent election observers and monitors are allowed to observe the entire electoral process, including the voter registration, campaigning, voting, and vote counting (Sanchez & Samaan, 2023). However, in sham elections, independent observers are often barred from the process, and the ruling party or authoritarian regime controls the entire process. Sham elections are not only detrimental to democracy, but they can also have severe consequences for the stability and security of a country. When citizens feel that authorities are not listening to their voices, and their votes do not matter, they may turn to violent means to express their discontent. Additionally, sham elections can undermine the legitimacy of governments, and the lack of accountability can lead to corruption and abuse of power (Sanchez & Samaan, 2023).
Given those explanations on Sham election above, it perfectly fits to explain what has happened in Myanmar proposed election by the Junta. As the Junta plans to hold an election within the next six months, many scholars and activists believe that it will be another fraud set-up election by the military to secure their political power. It will be a predetermined election in which the expected outcome is the military who will come out as the winner. As Junta General, Min Aung Hlaing, will lead the election, thus many activist dubbed as the MAHlection or through the social media spread with the hashtag as #MAHlection. They referred to the elections in which the outcome is predetermined, and the electoral process is a mere formality proposed by the junta leader, Min Aung Hlaing (MAH) to “secure” their political legitimacy in Myanmar. This proposed election has raised many questions and concerns, particularly regarding its legitimacy and the safety and fairness of the electoral process. How come the one that will lead the election is one of the candidates? These elections are characterized by a lack of transparency, fairness, and credibility.
The military junta's manipulation of the election process led to a widespread outcry from the people of Myanmar and the international community. The NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who had won the previous two elections, was once again declared the winner. However, the junta refused to accept the results and instead launched a coup on February 1, 2021, overthrowing the democratically elected government (Maung, 2023). One major concern is the military junta's control over the election process. The junta has already shown a willingness to use violence and repression to maintain its grip on power, and there are concerns that the election will be manipulated in its favor. The junta has already announced that it will create a new electoral commission to oversee the election, and many fear that this commission will be heavily influenced by the military (Mahmud, 2023).
The coup has plunged Myanmar into a deep political crisis, with the junta using violent force to suppress protests and silence opposition voices. The coup has also exposed the deep-rooted authoritarianism and lack of respect for human rights in Myanmar. The junta's actions have drawn condemnation from the international community, with many countries imposing sanctions and calling for the restoration of democracy. However, the junta has refused to back down and has instead escalated its repression of the people of Myanmar (International Crisis Group, 2023).
Another concern is the safety of the election itself. Myanmar has been rocked by widespread protests and violence since the coup, and there are fears that the election could become a flashpoint for further conflict. The junta has already used violence against peaceful protesters, and there are concerns that it will continue to do so during the election period. In addition, there are concerns about the participation of political parties and candidates. Many of the leaders of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement have been arrested or are in hiding, and there are fears that they will be prevented from participating in the election (Nadi, 2023). Furthermore, many political parties and ethnic minority groups have called for a boycott of the election, citing concerns about the junta's control and the legitimacy of the process.
The sham election in Myanmar is a severe blow to democracy and human rights in the country, as well as in the region. It has exposed the fragility of democracy and the ease with which authoritarian regimes can manipulate the electoral process to maintain their grip on power (International Crisis Group, 2023). They undermine the fundamental principles of democratic governance and are a threat to stability and security. The sham election in Myanmar is a stark reminder that democracy must be protected.
It is crucial for the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and support their struggle for democracy and human rights.The international community must take decisive action and hold the military junta accountable for their actions. Only then can democracy and human rights be restored in Myanmar, and the country can move towards a brighter future. It is the responsibility of citizens, civil society organizations, and the international community to denounce sham elections and work towards ensuring that elections are free, fair, and transparent (Clapp, 2023). Only then can democracy thrive, and citizens can have confidence that their voices are being heard.
- Withnall, A. (2023, June 13). North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote. Retrieved from Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/kim-jongun-wins-100-of-the-vote-in-north-korean-elections-9180814.html
- Jamjoom, M. (2023, June 2). Yemen holds presidential election with one candidate. Retrieved from CNN World: https://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/21/world/meast/yemen-elections/index.html
- Sanchez, R., & Samaan, M. (2023, May 30). Egyptian opposition calls for boycott of elections after challengers are arrested and attacked. Retrieved from The Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/29/egyptian-opposition-calls-boycott-elections-challengers-arrested/
- Clapp, P. A. (2023, May 30). In Myanmar, Sham Elections Aren’t the Path to Stability. Retrieved from United States Institute of Peace: https://www.usip.org/publications/2022/10/myanmar-sham-elections-arent-path-stability
- Maung, M. (2023, May 30). Myanmar Junta Dissolves Political Parties. Retrieved from Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/03/29/myanmar-junta-dissolves-political-parties
- Nadi, K. (2023, May 30). Myanmar People Will Never Accept any Election Held by the Junta. Retrieved from The Irrawaddy: https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/analysis/analysis-myanmar-people-will-never-accept-any-election-held-by-the-junta.html
- Mahmud, K. U. (2023, May 31). Will the Myanmar Junta Hold National Elections in the Near Future? Retrieved from The Geopolitics: https://thegeopolitics.com/will-the-myanmar-junta-hold-national-elections-in-the-near-future/
- International Crisis Group. (2023, May 30). Road to Nowhere: The Myanmar Regime's Stage-Managed Elections. Retrieved from International Crisis Group: https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/myanmar/b175-road-nowhere-myanmar-regimes-stage-managed-elections