Myanmar votes in second democratic election since end of military rule

Yangon, Myanmar, Nov 8 (efe-epa).- Million of Burmese cast their ballots on Sunday in the second democratic elections of the Southeast Asian country since the end of half a century of military rule, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s party widely expected to win reelection.

The election comes amid health concerns sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and measures put in place to combat the virus in Myanmar that has recorded more than 60,000 infections and 1,390 deaths.

Polling stations across the country opened at 6 am.

But an EFE-EPA correspondent saw some of the 38 million voters had already queued up an hour earlier to vote at some voting centers in Yangon, the main city of Myanmar. The polling booths are set to close at 4 pm.

The official results will take several days. However, only a few have doubts that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) will return to power again after its resounding victory in the 2015 election.

Some 93 political outfits have put up their candidates in a contest for a total of 1,171 seats in the national, state, and regional legislature.

But 25 percent of the legislative seats are reserved for the armed forces, according to the Myanmar constitution that was approved in 2008 by the military Junta.

It is enough to prevent any constitutional changes that require the support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers. The constitution also gives the military control of national security ministries and gives it almost total autonomy from the civilian government.

The NLD had won a majority in the last polls to form the first civilian elected government.

However, Suu Kyi’s failure to reconcile with ethnic minorities on the country’s periphery, some at war with the government for decades, may steal the thunder from the NLD.

Suu Kyi has come under intense scrutiny from the international community, given her support for the military in its 2017 clampdown on the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority in the western state of Rakhine.

The army has been accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Suu Kyi defended the military actions at the Hague last year and remains popular in her country.

Dozens of regional ethnic-nationalist parties could win more seats in parliament than in the previous elections, according to analysis.

Myanmar’s poll body has canceled voting in several conflict areas across the country, citing security reasons, including in more than half of the electoral districts of the restive western Rakhine state, where the army is fighting the ethnic-separatist rebels of the Arakan Army.

The state, also known as Arakan, is home to the Rohingya minority group that was subjected to a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign by the military and forced out of their homes.

The cancellation has disenfranchised around 1.5 million voters across communities, most of them from Rakhine.

There are around 500,000 Rohingyas in an additional list of people unable to cast their votes due to security reasons.

The government denies Myanmar citizenship to the people from the stateless minority group.

The ethnic group has suffered decades of discrimination at the hands of a regime that regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite them having lived in Myanmar for generations.

The military, in a crackdown in 2017, allegedly massacred thousands of Rohingyas and forced at least 738,000 to flee to Bangladesh.

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