With the 26th announcement of electoral-list irregularities, followed by an appeal of January 20 by the Tatmadaw that the president, government and the Union Election Commission (UEC) clarify them, there can be no doubt that the Tatmadaw means business.
And with the Application of Writ, filed by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and Democratic Party of National Politics (DPN) on January 5, which was accepted by the Supreme Court scheduled for preliminary video-conference hearings on January 29, just a few days more to go, the plot has really thickened.
President Win Myint and three other government officials as well as UEC chairman Hla Thein and 14 others were named as defendants.
According to BBC January 20 explanation, Application of Writ filed involved “questioning” and “enforcement directive”. “Questioning” call for whether an authorized organization or institution is acting according to the given law, principle, rules and regulations, code of conduct, directive and so on. “Enforcement directive” is the application of when an authorized person, organization or government institution has failed to act according to the given rights to discharge the duties, to give directive order and act accordingly.
As if to counter the Tatmadaw or military endorsement rally on January 22, in Naypyitaw, a hundred or so National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters staged a rally in Yangon, on January 24, siding with the party in a row that has to do with electoral-list irregularities alleged by the military bloc against the NLD.
Statement on stance
On January 20, the Tatmadaw Information Team released a statement which generally outlined the development from pre-election period to the present.
The Tatmadaw’s 12-point statement gist writes:
- It implemented the first multi-party democracy by holding general elections in November 2010 according to the 2008 Constitution.
- Held November 2015 general elections and dutifully transfer power to the election winning party.
- Issued statement during the pre-election period that the voting processes are not in conformity with the law and procedures.
- UEC vetted polices and stances privileged for the ruling party in canvassing for elections but prohibiting other political parties to do so, including advance voting under the pretext of Covid-19 situation.
- Demand for copying necessary documents to prove the voting irregularities was rejected by the UEC.
- UEC released statement on 30 December 2020 that the document used by Tatmadaw to prove irregularities were not final documents used during November 8, 2020 elections.
- Its statements has already announced that it has found 2,945,621 overlapping votes and 4,678,104 votes from other list, totaling 7,623,725 votes that may cause irregularities in scrutinizing the township-wise list of 314 townships.
- It has exposed 18,352 hundred or more age old voters, 11,942 under-18 voters, 4,647,197 non-NCR (national registration card) holders, 2,945,621 with the same NRC number, and 613 deceased persons or juveniles in the list.
- It is checking the voter lists as it wants the election to be free, fair and transparent. It is up to the UEC to settle the issues and it will not be reasonable just to say the UEC decision is final and conclusive. It should provide the people with an honest explanation.
- While the UEC took no action, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw also rejected the collective call of the political parties and Tatmadaw’s parliamentary representatives to hold parliamentary session to discuss the issue.
- It is responsible for safeguarding the non-disintegration of the Union, national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty according to section 20 (e) and sub-section (f) mainly responsible for safeguarding the constitution. It took full responsibility to hold the election peacefully, successfully and without disturbances as its aspiration is true democracy and always stays away from party politics.
- If the election can be proven to be free, fair and transparent and reflect the true aspirations of the people, it will accept the results. It is hereby declared that Pyidaungsu Hluttaw or the government or the UEC should find a way to overcome the political dilemma in the interests of the State and the people.
Aspect of law and politics
So far, the argument and approach regarding the electoral-list irregularities were assessed from the legal point of view and not politics.
On January 21, Sai Nyunt Lwin, vice-chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) told the People Media the rising tension between the NLD and Tatmadaw as: “The Tatmadaw’s announcements are gradually increasing. The government is also not responding. Especially the UEC is not responding. This give rise to more tension. If they (UEC & government) constructively respond the announcements can also lessen. Now there is no negotiation to reconcile and if they behave indifferently it can escalate more into head-on issues.”
In reply to the question as to why the Tatmadaw is referring to section 20 (e) and (f) he replied: “Tatmadaw thinks it is entitled that’s why it quoted them. This issue is not just only about law and cannot be looked at only from legal point of view, I think it should also be viewed from political aspect. Both political and legal point of views should be applied to clarify the issue.”
Likewise, on January 22, The Ladies News interviewed Sai Leik, general secretary of the SNLD on the same issue, on which he said: “Another point is that the Tatmadaw is demanding according to the people’s desire. And if electoral-list irregularities and vote-rigging are not exposed and actions not taken according to the people’s wish, it won’t be fulfilling the people’s desire.”
“In a way it can be said (understood) that it won’t be according to the desire of the Tatmadaw and some political parties. If this is the case, political dilemma could arise is the hint delivered by the message.”
“This is one way to urge NLD the implementation of the national unity government, without ignoring the Tatmadaw and other parties. I think this is the message they want to give,” added Sai Leik to explain his point of view.
On January 24, Myanmar Times reported the NLD’s indifference to the demand of the Tatmadaw, when Zaw Myint Maung, vice-chairman of the NLD said: “ We’re doing according to the law. We don’t have anything to say on what they’re doing or criticize them. We’re doing according to the constitution and UEC law. Convening parliament within two months is our duty because the NLD this time also won the parliamentary election. So NLD will call parliamentary session and we’re concentrating on it. The rest is not our business.”
For the time being, no one is sure on how the row between the military bloc and NLD will pan out. But given the maneuvering of the two main adversaries a compromise may be the only way out to escape dilemma by treading between the horns.
The military bloc knows that it has lost the election roundly but wants to restore credit by pointing out vote-rigging and electoral-list irregularities as a guardian of guided democracy according to the 2008 Constitution, rightly or wrongly.
If one comes to think about it, the military is not keen to take up the administration burden for the present system is beneficial for its group survival, which even lend legitimacy by being part of the NLD-led government. Other than that, it is not insane to take over the government through military coup and face the world in international forum such as appearing or defending itself before the ICJ at The Hague, which the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been doing for it so far.
Thus, the likely scenario after the January 29 hearing by the Supreme Court will either be watered down through compromise of the two adversaries or one side will give in a little to let the administrative machinery function.
At the end of the day, the analogy of two passengers riding a tricycle, seated back-to-back, on the same journey may be the reality on the ground. After all, both are on the same wavelength, where Bamar supremacy and minimum power devolution with some federal trappings conviction vis-à-vis ethnic nationalities are concerned, and the row is just a routine of little squabbling and arguing. Besides, both don’t have much choice but to work together, as even the constitution has explicitly prescribed the quasi-civilian-military system of governance, whether the contending parties like it or not.