Last November's election results in Myanmar were “by and large, representative of the will of the people,” an independent election monitoring organization said Monday, rejecting the military's allegations of massive fraud that served as its reason for seizing power.
While there were flaws in the election process, “there were a number of procedural safeguards implemented throughout the polling process, which ... was found to be transparent and reliable,” the Asian Network for Free Elections said in a report.
It noted, however, that Myanmar's electoral process is “fundamentally undemocratic” because its 2008 constitution, written during army rule, grants the military an automatic 25% share of all parliamentary seats, enough to block constitutional changes. Large sectors of the population, most notably the Muslim Rohingya minority, are deprived of citizenship rights, including the right to vote.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the Nov. 8 polls, which should have secured it a second five-year term in office. Its 2015 victory moved Myanmar along a path toward democracy after more than five decades of direct and indirect military rule.
But on Feb. 1, the military arrested Suu Kyi and dozens of other top officials. It prevented elected lawmakers from convening a new session of Parliament, declared a state of emergency and said it would run the country until new elections were held in a year - a deadline it later indicated could be delayed an additional year.
Security forces have used lethal force in an attempt to suppress huge popular opposition to the military coup. Hundreds of protesters and bystanders have been killed in the crackdown.
The report by ANFREL, a non-partisan international group working for fair elections in Asia, noted that junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said the military took over because “there was terrible fraud in the voter lists.” The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which suffered unexpectedly heavy losses in the election, made similar allegations.