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Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, attends a ceremony at the NLD’s temporary headquarters Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, attends a ceremony at the National League for Democracy’s temporary headquarters in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

A Sham Election May Be the ‘Nail in the Coffin’ for Democracy in Myanmar

Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020

Myanmar is preparing to hold general elections this Sunday, an occasion that might have marked a significant milestone in its ongoing transition from decades of military rule. The previous polls, in 2015, saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy finally win the presidency and a majority of seats in parliament, following the dissolution of the military junta in 2011. Hopes were high that Suu Kyi, who is now Myanmar’s de facto leader, would usher in a new era of peace and expanded freedoms. Yet the consensus today is that Myanmar’s democratic transition has stalled—if it can even be said to be transitioning at all.

On many counts, Suu Kyi and the NLD have overseen the return of repression to the country. The number of politically motivated lawsuits—against journalists, civil society members, activists and ordinary citizens—has been increasing steadily each year, according to a 2019 report by Athan, a Myanmar-based advocacy group. More than 500 people are awaiting trial on politically motivated charges; 180 of them languish in pretrial detention. Social media users have even been prosecuted for criticizing the government on Facebook. ...

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