Nikkei Asian Review: “Myanmar backtracks on plan to postpone poll”

SIMON ROUGHNEEN, Asia regional correspondent and GWEN ROBINSON, NAR chief editor | October 14, 2015

YANGON — Hours after Myanmar’s main opposition party objected to a proposal by the country’s Union Election Commission to postpone a national poll scheduled for Nov. 8, the government changed tack and announced that the vote would go ahead as scheduled.

The suggestion to delay the poll was made by election commission chairman Tin Aye at an Oct. 13 meeting with several of Myanmar’s main political parties, although no official postponement was announced nor any alternative election date given. Shortly after 8pm Myanmar time on Oct. 13 media run by Myanmar’s army announced that the election will proceed on Nov. 8 as planned.

Win Htein, who represented the main opposition National League for Democracy at the meeting, said the election commission’s aboutturn was baffling. “I don’t know why they changed their minds,” he told the NAR. “I think they believed that the public would be angry if they changed the date.” The NLD had earlier opposed the proposed delay.

Nyantha Maw Lin, managing director for Myanmar of Vriens & Partners, a government relations consultancy, said a postponement might have made foreign investors wary, unless there was clear public support for a delay. “While the floods have no doubt been disruptive across large parts of Myanmar, the full impact on the electoral process had not been clearly communicated. Even then, there is doubt whether it [merited] a nationwide postponement,” he said.

Several diplomats and other analysts noted that the proposed delay — and suspicions that the ruling party or the powerful military wanted to buy time –might have worked in the NLD’s favor by further undermining trust in the USDP. In 1990, a military government annulled an election victory by the NLD and put the party’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, now 70, under house arrest.

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