The Union Election Commission (UEC) in Burma has dissolved the National League for Democracy (NLD) and 39 other political parties, including major state and region-based parties such as the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Kayah State Democratic Party, and the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Party in a recent development.
The regime in Burma had set a deadline of March 28 for all political parties to register or face dissolution. Following the military coup in 2021, a general election was to be held within a year, but due to the state of emergency being repeatedly extended, it remains uncertain when the election will take place.
Some pro-democracy parties, such as the NLD and SNLD, chose not to register with the UEC as they did not recognize the legitimacy of the regime. As a result, eight out of the 40 political parties that were dissolved had won 987 of the 1,161 parliamentary seats that were contested in the 2020 general election. The remaining 174 parliamentary seats were won by 11 political parties that re-registered with the UEC. In the 2015 and 2020 general elections, the NLD achieved a landslide victory. However, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other NLD officials have been in custody since February 1, 2021. Suu Kyi is facing a sentence of 33 years in prison.
Anti-coup resistance groups have called on the public to boycott any regime-planned election and have vowed to disrupt the electoral process. There have been several reports of attacks on census officials collecting data that could be used for voter rolls. Countries such as the U.S. and Malaysia have said that any elections staged under this regime would be illegitimate. The National Unity Government (NUG) acting President Duwa Lashi La said he respects and honours all political parties that do not recognize the regime’s “fake election.”
Duwa Lashi La stated that the NUG and PDFs, which control significant portions of the region, have made Min Aung Hlaing incapable of commanding his armed forces, and he fears resistance forces. It is apparent that his declaration to eliminate our groups was an expression of his fear. The International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict monitoring organization, released a report on March 28 calling on the global community to declare any election conducted by the regime without the NLD and other democratic parties’ participation as illegitimate, which could result in further violence.
“The majority of the population fiercely oppose going to the polls to legitimize the military’s political control, so we will see violence ratchet up if the regime seeks to impose a vote, and resistance groups seek to disrupt them. To prevent this escalation, western and regional actors must send a concerted message that polls are illegitimate, and withhold electoral support; while the parallel National Unity Government should unambiguously oppose resistance attacks on electoral targets.” said Richard Horsey, the ICG Senior Adviser on Burma. Much of the country remains contested between the Burma Army and Ethnic Resistance Organizations (EROs), supported by the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), casting widespread doubt that the regime could logistically hold a nationwide election with rampant insecurity.