In the early hours of Monday morning on February 1st, 2021 (early Sunday morning in the U.S.), the Myanmar Military (Tatmadaw) seized control over the government, declaring a one-year State of Emergency to investigate voter fraud; just hours before the new Parliament were due to start. The Military claims to have identified 10.5 million instances of voter fraud and has detained the country’s president, U Win Myint, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy (NLD) Lawmakers and members of the Central Executive Committee, in addition to influential entertainer-(Hollywood type) activists.
U Win Myint Swe, during New Year message 2021
A former General, the current Vice President, U Win Myint Swe, will serve as the acting President until the Emergency declaration has ended and a new election occurs. Though Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be President because her two sons are British citizens and the President must have military experience (per the Myanmar constitution), she is the de facto head of government as the State Counsellor and leader of the parliamentary majority ruling NLD party.
In 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi apologized for not becoming Myanmar's President and stated, "I'll run the government and we'll have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD."
On November 8th, 2020, Myanmar held its parliamentary elections, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) party appeared to have won the election by a landslide over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The NLD and USDP are the two largest political parties in Myanmar.
As with some countries holding elections during a global pandemic, special provisions were afforded due to the CCPVirus, which included “advanced voting” for certain populations.
On January 26th, numbers and lists became available regarding the 2020 election results. Tatmadaw demanded clarity from the Union Election Commission (UEC) regarding the 10 million cases of voter irregularities, but none has been given. The official government organization claims that it is acting within the charter and election laws.
Human rights groups have criticized the UEC for lack of transparency on their decision-making process after canceling voting in 15 townships and parts of 42 others during the 2020 parliamentary election.
Myanmar is plagued with two major human rights problems, and neither has improved under military or civilian rule. One is the genocide of the Rohingya people, and the other is human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, Burma is a Tier 3 level human trafficking perpetrator.
Myanmar is a very new Democracy that was previously governed by the military. Under the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, became active in developing relations with Burma/Myanmar and worked towards a Democratic form of Government with the nation's leaders.
This would eventually create an opening for economic opportunities and foreign investment. In 2011, Hillary Clinton was the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Myanmar in decades. Hillary coordinated closely with Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD party leader, on how to proceed forward. Suu Kyi was treated to a visit at the Obama White House and spoke at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. President Obama also made a personal visit to Myanmar in 2012 and was met with much opposition as the perception of the U.S. was not favorable at that time.
In 2015, a company named Wiredcraft was tasked with building the voter registration system for the 2016 Myanmar elections. Wiredcraft was tasked to build the system by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) and the Union Election Commission (UEC). The UEC is Myanmar’s national-level electoral commission. The IFES is a United States-based group out of Arlington, Virginia, whose mission states, “together we build democracies that deliver for all” and is partly funded by USAID and the U.S. Department of State, among other International donors.
It is unclear what system or software the country uses to administer official elections.
China expert Jack Posobiec of One America News tweeted that the military “was upset that Aung San Suu Kyi was becoming too close to the CCP.
China’s President Xi Jinping just visited the country for the first time in nearly 20 years with promises of a series of investments in the region.
Though it is still unclear how everything will play out in Myanmar, no international authority should be condemning the actions of or calling for consequences at this point in time. If, in fact, the military can prove what they claim about the election results, the international community would be better suited to adopt a wait and see posture until more information is made available. This matter impacts the former Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the United Nations, China, and others who will try to control the narrative every step of the way. In Myanmar, the social media giants don’t have near the power over elections that they do in the U.S. though they are trying.