Myanmar has confirmed its historic general elections for November 8, an official from the country’s election commission reportedly said Wednesday.
The announcement ends months of speculation and sets the stage for polls following a historic opening in 2011 after half a century of military rule.
Tin Tun, the director general of the Union Election Commission (UEC), told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that the date had been set. The commission had previously said that polls would happen around October or November.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
While the poll date has been confirmed, the nature of the election itself is still unclear – down to who will be participating. The announcement comes just weeks after Myanmar’s parliament voted against proposed constitutional amendments, thereby making it highly unlikely that opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi can run for the presidency.
Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has been reluctant to confirm if it will participate in polls even though most expect it to do so (See: “Myanmar’s Opposition Leader Seeks ‘Landslide’ Win in Upcoming Polls”). The party continues to insist that Suu Kyi be allowed to contest the 2015 elections, even though the constitution currently forbids her from doing so. Even after hearing the confirmation of the election date, NLD spokesman Nyan Win told Agence France-Presse that the party could not say if it would take part and would need to hold a meeting to make a decision.
Beyond this, there are also broader concerns about the significance of the election and how it is being conducted. The failure of constitutional reform – which ensured that the military preserved its effective veto in the legislature – has raised questions regarding the potential for reform even if the NLD does defeat the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in polls (See: “Constitutional Reform Fails in Myanmar Ahead of Polls”). The NLD has also complained directly to the UEC about the integrity of provisional electoral rolls.
When polls were held in 1990, the NLD won decisively despite Suu Kyi being under house arrest. However, the military prevented it from taking power.