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After Banning Opposition Parties, Myanmar Junta Chief Falsely Promises ‘Free and Fair Elections’

A Myanmar protester residing in Japan uses a flag with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally to mark the second anniversary of Myanmar's 2021 military coup, outside the Embassy of Myanmar in Tokyo on February 1, 2023. (Issei Kato/Reuters)
Min Aung Hlaing

Min Aung Hlaing

Myanmar military leader

"The fact 'upon accomplishing the provisions of the State of Emergency, free and fair multiparty democratic elections will be held in line with the 2008 Constitution, and further work will be undertaken to hand over State responsibilities to the winning party in accordance with democratic standards' is clearly stated as the last point of the Five-Point Road Map of the government."


On March 28, Myanmar state media announced that the National League for Democracy (NLD), formerly led by imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was among 40 political parties to be dissolved for failing to comply with a restrictive new registration law.

Reports suggest that the junta drafted the registration law to keep opposition parties from seriously challenging military rule when elections are eventually held.

On March 27, military leader Min Aung Hliang said “lawful actions” would be “decisively taken” against the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, Myanmar’s government in exile, and the country’s anti-coup resistance, which Min Aung labeled “terrorists.”

"The terror acts of the NUG and its lackey so-called PDFs (People’s Defense Forces) are needed to be tackled for good and all," Min Aung Hlaing said.

He further restated part of the military administration’s plan to “achieve full stability and law and order” in the country and cement a flourishing “multiparty democratic system.”

“The fact ‘upon accomplishing the provisions of the state of emergency, free and fair elections will be held in line with the 2008 constitution, and further work will be undertaken to hand over state duties to the winning party in accordance with the democratic standards,’ is clearly stated as the last point of the Five-Point roadmap of the government,” Min Aung Hlaing said.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military council, inspects officers during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw on March 27, 2023. (Aung Shine Oo/AP)
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military council, inspects officers during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw on March 27, 2023. (Aung Shine Oo/AP)

The general’s claim that the military government is working toward democratic elections is false.

Since overthrowing Myanmar’s popularly-elected government in February 2021, the country’s military rulers have increasingly used violence and repression to maintain control.

Analysts say elections held in the war-torn country will be neither free nor fair, and are intended to help cement military rule under a veneer of legitimacy.

The decision to ban dozens of political parties, including the former ruling party, underscores that.

The NLD won the November 2020 election by a landslide. The Asian Network for Free Elections said that result largely represented “the will of the people of Myanmar.”

The junta has consistently used allegations of voter fraud to justify the military’s seizure of power, but election monitors found no evidence to support those claims.

Analysts at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank said the coup was intended “to remove Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD from the political landscape,” allowing the military to “share power”” with a deferential civilian administration.

Since the coup, the NLD has been the target of repression. The party said the military government has arrested 1,235 of its members since the military takeover, while 26 NLD members have died in prison or while being interrogated.

Governments, international bodies and rights groups condemned the junta’s decision to ban dozens of opposition parties.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “deep concerns” about the dissolution of the political parties, warning “[a]ny attempts to undermine democratic institutions and processes will only deepen the crisis and delay the return to a fully democratic and inclusive Myanmar.”

Human Rights Watch said the repressive environment in Myanmar, coupled with the dissolution of opposition parties, would ensure any election will be “dominated by junta-backed political parties and the military itself,” which is already assured a 25% share of seats in the national and local legislatures.

The International Crisis Group said Myanmar’s elections would not be viewed as credible, with many there viewing them as “a cynical attempt to supplant” the NLD’s 2020 landslide victory.

Then there is the issue of even holding an election, given current conditions.

With the country embroiled in a complex and brutal civil war, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, an independent group of international experts, reported in September 2022 that the military no longer had control over much of the country.

"The junta is being actively contested in a further 23% and can only claim to have stable control over 17% of the territory,” a briefing paper from the council stated.

The International Crisis Group warned that regime violence to “impose elections,” and anti-regime violence to “disrupt them,” would “almost certainly intensify the post-coup conflict.”

The U.N.’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) said the military has committed “widespread and systematic” crimes against the civilian population since the coup.

In September 2022, IIMM head Nicholas Koumjian told the U.N. Human Rights Council that war crimes and crimes against humanity were ratcheting up in Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch said that the junta’s alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and “widespread oppression,” including severe restrictions on the freedoms of speech, association and assembly, have removed the possibility of free and fair elections in Myanmar “for the foreseeable future.”

In December 2022, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for “an immediate end to all forms of violence throughout the country” and the release of “all arbitrarily detained prisoners.”