Myanmar election commission rejects military’s fraud claims

International
Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi watches the vaccination of health workers at hospital Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Health workers in Myanmar on Wednesday became the country’s first people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, just five days after the first vaccine supply was delivered from India. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s election commission rejected allegations by the military that fraud played a significant role in determining the outcome of November’s elections, which delivered a landslide victory to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party.

The decision, announced Thursday, came amid heightened tensions after the military, which had ruled Myanmar for five decades until 2015, refused to rule out the possibility of a coup if their complaints were ignored.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the Nov. 8 polls, allowing them to form the government for another five years. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won only 33 seats.

The military has been calling on the government and the Union Election Commission to review the results. It says it has found 8.6 million irregularities in voter lists in 314 townships that could have let voters cast multiple ballots or commit other “voting malpractice,” but the election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.

On Tuesday, a military spokesperson declined to rule out a coup, saying the military would continue to file complaints about alleged irregularities in line with laws and the constitution.

Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday told senior officers in a speech that the constitution could be revoked if the laws are not being properly enforced.

“The constitution is the mother law for all laws. So we all need to abide by the constitution. If one does not follow the law, such law must be revoked. If it is the constitution, it is necessary to revoke the constitution,” he said.

The party of Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace prize laureate, won the previous elections in 2015 also in a landslide. But her ability to run the country has been hamstrung by a clause in the 2008 army-drafted constitution giving the military 25% of the seats in parliament that allows it to block constitutional reforms.

Khin Zaw Win, a political analyst in Yangon and former political prisoner, suggested the military was signaling its intention to intervene in the country’s politics.

“The military’s course of action is much clearer now. As illogical as it sounds, military chief Min Aung Hlaing’s argument is meant to soften the blow of abrogating the 2008 constitution,” he said.

“By doing so, he aims to do away with the election results and the impending NLD government. At the same time he wants to win public support for scrapping the unpopular constitution,” he added.

The U.N. released a statement Thursday saying the secretary-general is following with great concern recent developments in Myanmar.

“He urges all actors to desist from any form of incitement or provocation, to demonstrate leadership, and to adhere to democratic norms and respect the outcome of the 8 November general election. All electoral disputes should be resolved through established legal mechanisms,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Diplomatic missions in Myanmar also issued a joint statement on Friday expressing support for the democratic process.

“We urge the military, and all other parties in the country, to adhere to democratic norms, and we oppose any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition,” said the statement issued by the EU, the U.S., Australia and others.

Myanmar’s parliament will convene on Monday with military representatives registered to attend the session.

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Associated Press writer Bill Bredesen in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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