The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) found Monday that Myanmar’s general election held in 2020 represented the will of the citizenry and that the military coup lacked justifiable grounds.
The NGO’s 176-page report, entitled “The 2020 Myanmar General Elections: Democracy Under Attack,” noted ANFREL’s satisfaction with Myanmar’s 2020 general election, which attracted 27.5 million voters during the COVID-19 pandemic—just over half the country’s population.
Myanmar has long fought for democracy after a political history of coups and corruption. The 2020 election was close to achieving democracy, the report found, but full freeness and fairness were hindered somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic. Freeness and fairness were also affected by internet shutdowns in certain areas of Rakhine and Chin states. This led to bigger political parties mobilizing resources to push on with their campaigns whilst smaller parties and lesser-known candidates were at a disadvantage. In addition, Myanmar cannot be considered a democratic state while it continues to reserve a quarter of parliamentary seats for the armed forces and while the military’s veto power remains.
ANFREL was concerned by the high rate of election-related violence. It noted, “the number of violent incidents saw an important rise compared with 2015, with most of them taking place between the supporters of the two largest parties in central areas of the country otherwise unaffected by conflict.” It called for greater security and accountability in future elections.
ANFREL found that shortly following the election, the military coup, which overthrew the democratically-elected government, hindered the country’s democratic progress. “[T]he nefarious actions of the Tatmadaw [military] halted the electoral process in its tracks and rolled back five years of tentative democracy for the country,” it noted. The military junta has illegally held illegitimate power since February.
ANFREL condemned the military coup. It noted the military’s justification for the coup being alleged irregularities in voting, such as voter fraud, but concluded there was no justification for the military’s actions. It stated:
ANFREL again denounces the military’s attempts to rule by force and disregard the 2008 Constitution that it itself wrote, as well as the fundamental freedoms of the citizens of Myanmar. We call for the return of power to a civilian-led government and urge all stakeholders to seek redress of election-related complaints through the due process of law.
ANFREL has acted as an elections watchdog since it was established in 1997. Its election observation methodology is based on the principles codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Bangkok Declaration for Free and Fair Elections and the Dili Indicators of Democratic Elections.