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Myanmar: A Pre-Election Primer Prepared for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum by Richard Horsey1 18 October

2010 I. Introduction With the Myanmar election only three weeks away, this paper aims to give a concise overview of the state of play: the constituencies, political parties and candidates. It also attempts to predict the range of possible outcomes of the ballot. Any such prediction is extremely difficult, but it is possible to sketch certain plausible scenarios, and rule out certain others. Thus, it is clear that a repeat of the 1990 democratic landslide is statistically impossible. It is also difficult to say whether there will be systematic irregularities on election day that would influence the outcome. However, while there will undoubtedly be some irregularities, a fraudulent vote count is on balance unlikely – both because of the decentralized and semi-public nature of the count, and because the odds have already been stacked in favour of the military/USDP. The analysis provided in section IV suggests that there can be no “democratic” majority in either house of the national legislature, but that, unless there is major ballot fraud on election day, the military/USDP bloc is also unlikely to have a majority in either house. The most likely outcome is that the National Unity Party (NUP) will hold the balance of power between the two dispensations. This would give the NUP a powerful role, and it is unclear how it will use its legislative influence. The party is undoubtedly part of the political ‘establishment’, but its policies are unlikely to coincide with those of the present regime on all issues – it would not be surprising if it decided to push for one of the presidential nominees to be drawn from its ranks, for example. If the NUP does end up holding the balance of power in the legislatures, this may mean that lawmaking is dominated by a conservative, authoritarian-leaning nationalism; but it would certainly not be merely a facsimile of the present regime in civilian clothing. II. Constituencies The Election Commission designated a total of 1163 constituencies for this electoral cycle,2 as follows: Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House): Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House): 14 State/Region legislatures: 330 constituencies 168 constituencies 665 constituencies (636 township constituencies,3 plus 29 special ethnic constituencies)

1 Richard Horsey is an independent political analyst and a former ILO liaison officer in Myanmar; he is fluent in the Burmese language. 2 For a detailed analysis of constituencies, see Richard Horsey, “Countdown to the Myanmar Elections”, Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum Briefing Paper, 24 August 2010.

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According to these announcements. much larger geographical areas (and hence populations) could not participate due to security reasons. except that no State/Region constituencies were designated for the eight townships of Naypyitaw (which are ‘Union territory’ under the direct administration of the president) or for the four townships in Shan State under the control of the United Wa State Army ceasefire group (which may also be declared ‘Union territory’ on grounds of security). Assuming the population density is one-third of the average. it would not allow elections to take place in the areas under its military control). Assuming eligible voters make up fifty percent of the population (the national average). rather. However. Assuming even population density.000)/3 = 188.000. 88/2010 (11 August 2010).000 (UNODC. the United Wa State Army indicated that. that would give 150. this represents about one percent of all eligible voters in the country. so the total State/Region constituencies is (330 – 8 – 4) = 318 x 2 = 636 constituencies.5 Together. That is. In terms of ethnic exclusion.000. two constituencies per township. In 1990. it was not so much that the Election Commission excluded them. on 7 November elections will take place in 1157 constituencies. the 300 excluded village tracts have at most 190. due to its rejection of the 2008 constitution. and in particular the provisions for the Wa region. 2006). as follows: Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House): 326 constituencies Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House): 168 constituencies 14 State/Region legislatures: 663 constituencies In terms of population.4 The four excluded Wa townships have at most an additional 150.000. mountainous.000. with a population density far below the national average. and its subsequent rejection of independent candidates linked to these parties. and were therefore never designated as separate constituencies. These are mostly remote. and two State/Region constituencies in Kachin State (Ingyangyang 2 and Sumprabum 2). so 300 represent less than two percent. elections did not take place in seven out of 492 constituencies.000 eligible voters. Therefore. These areas are spread across thirty-two townships. the number of eligible voters would be ((300/16. This means that only six constituencies have been affected in toto: the four lower house constituencies corresponding to the excluded Wa townships (no State/Region constituencies were designated for these townships). no voting will take place in four whole townships (controlled by the United Wa State Army ceasefire group) and some 300 village-tracts. the refusal of the Election Commission to register the three Kachin parties.000) x 30. the four excluded townships would have a population of 300. 3 2 . 4 The total number of village tracts/wards in the country is 16. Most of these places are insecure or conflict areas.On 16 September 2010. is a far more serious issue (in the case of the Wa. conflict affected parts of the country.000 voters. This is the number listed in Union Election Commission Notification No. significant swathes of the borderlands were under the territorial control of armed opposition groups. the Election Commission announced that elections would not take place in certain ethnic areas of the country “as they are in no position to hold free and fair elections”. At that time. There are 330 townships in Myanmar. 5 The population of the Wa special region (six townships) is about 450. the areas that were excluded from the ballot for security reasons were much more extensive. since at that time.000.

III. These numbers are based on information provided by the parties themselves. Myanmar New Society Democratic Party 9. 211 Region legislature) Parties contesting: 14 Independent candidates: 26 Seats with only one candidate: 1 (no ballot. 92 Region legislature) Total candidates: 454 (48 Upper House. The Union Solidarity and Development Party and the National Unity Party are each contesting almost all constituencies. since the Election Commission has never published a consolidated list of approved candidates for the country as a whole. All National Races Unity and Development Party (Kayah State) 6. an unofficial list of candidates for the upper. 195 Lower House. and are incomplete. Union Kayin League Not approved by Election Commission Not approved by Election Commission Not approved by Election Commission Not approved by Election Commission Failed to complete registration process Failed to complete registration process Failed to contest minimum 3 constituencies Failed to contest minimum 3 constituencies Failed to contest minimum 3 constituencies Failed to contest minimum 3 constituencies Of the thirty-seven political parties that will compete. United Democracy Party (Kachin State) 4. This means that there will be very few constituencies where the USDP runs unopposed. Kachin State Progressive Party 2. Myanmar Democracy Congress 8. In the absence of an official national list of the candidates running in each constituency. and each have more candidates that all other parties combined. 24 August 2010. Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum Briefing Paper. most are small regional parties which have nominated few candidates. candidate wins by default) Seats with only USDP and NUP candidates: 63 (only in Region legislature) 6 See list in appendix 1 of “Countdown to the Myanmar Elections”. However. 3 . Ten of the forty-seven parties who applied to the Election Commission for registration6 were not approved: 1. and can give some idea of how things are playing out in the most important political region. Regional Development Party (Pyay) 10. in many constituencies – particularly rural regional constituencies in central Myanmar – the choice will be between two candidates representing the party linked with the current regime (the USDP) and the party linked with the pre-1988 socialist regime (the NUP). People's New Society Party 5. lower and local seats in Yangon Region is available. Northern Shan State Progressive Party 3. Mro National Party constituencies 7. it is impossible to give a definitive analysis. Political parties and candidates A total of thirty-seven political parties will compete in the elections (see list in appendix 1). However. 45 Lower House. Yangon Region candidate distribution: Total seats: 149 (12 Upper House. The list in appendix 1 gives details on how many approved candidates each party will field. It can be seen that most parties have fielded relatively few candidates.

with a candidate from at least one of the main “democratic” parties (the Democratic Party and the National Democratic Force) standing in nearly all of these constituencies. on the basis of certain reasonable assumptions. This means that a repeat of the embarrassing 1990 democratic landslide is statistically impossible. However. 4 . But it is quite conceivable that there will be no systematic attempts to rig the count in favour of the USDP.000. It is very likely that there will be individual instances of intimidation.6% 1163 1157 47 37 c. in the presence of candidates or their representatives and members of the public. and the main “democratic” parties are contesting less than half. voters will have only a choice of a USDP or an NUP candidate in two-thirds of the seats in the Region legislature. In the absence of opinion polls or other reliable ways to quantify voter sentiment. the Election Commission did not designate eight Shan State Hluttaw constituencies for four townships in the Wa area. invalid votes) IV. however.This is the part of the country where political competition is most intense. it seems unlikely. for two main reasons. manipulation and fraud. The most obvious opportunity for manipulation is with absentee voting. to sketch two scenarios – a ‘best’ and ‘worst’ case. it is impossible to know how much manipulation of the vote will occur on election day.000 ? There are 1171 constitutionally-mandated constituencies. 30. Second. from the perspective of the democratic parties and the establishment parties. Possible outcomes It is clear that in the run-up to the elections. By the numbers: comparison with 1990 2010 Number of constituencies:7 Number of constituencies in which elections held: Number of parties applied: Number of parties contesting: Total number of candidates: Average number of candidates per constituency: Total number of eligible voters: Voter turnout (incl. Although the Election Commission has released no official candidate lists. This makes it rather difficult to carry out a major manipulation of the count of the kind witnessed in the 2008 referendum.800. 3153 2. A full breakdown is given in appendix 2. the USDP is contesting almost all constituencies. it is possible. For upper and lower house seats.000 72. giving a total of 1163 for this election cycle. However. Even here. First. it is impossible to attempt any detailed predictions of the election outcome.7 20. it is known that the USDP and NUP 7 1990 492 485 235 93 2296 4. the election laws provide for counting of the votes at each individual polling station. the playing field has been tilted strongly in favour of the USDP. The numbers in what follows are rough approximations. the numbers are already stacked heavily in favour of the regime: twenty-five percent of legislative seats are reserved for military appointees. Beyond this.6 c. there will be considerably more choice. prima facie. but it remains to be seen whether the number of such votes will be large enough to significantly alter the outcome of the election as a whole. though.

NUP 18%. On this scenario. As for the electoral college itself. not including military appointees) in order to choose the presidential nominee of that house. Scenario 1: “Democratic maximalist” This scenario assumes that the USDP and NUP will be systematically punished by voters: in any constituency where there is a third choice. which will elect the president from among the three nominees. three nominees are selected – one by the elected representatives of the upper house. the military and USDP together will also fail to reach a majority. with the choice coming down to the reputation of the individual candidate. but not the lower house nominee. the ‘other parties’ would have two-thirds of the elected seats in the upper house. that the military and USDP together also fail to have a majority in the upper house. each party is assumed to have an equal chance of winning. Taken together. however. this information can allow some general conclusions to be drawn. for which the NUP will hold the balance of power. and one by the military appointees of both houses. On the assumption that the USDP and NUP equally share the seats where only they are contesting. and win no other seats. This implies that on this scenario. that candidate will win. other parties 38% This could give ‘other parties’ a wafer-thin majority in the upper house. other parties 42% The NUP would therefore hold the balance of power in electing the president. Again. 5 . what is important is the total proportion of seats held by each bloc in the bicameral legislature as a whole. other parties 50% Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw): Military 25%. On the present scenario. assuming that they won every seat where a third-party candidate was contesting (unlikely) and assuming that all such candidates would vote as a bloc (also unlikely). NUP 11%. they have a good chance of being able to choose the upper house presidential nominee. On the present scenario. the NUP would be likely to hold the balance of power. The ‘other parties’ would therefore require a simple majority of elected seats in each house (that is. On the important question of choosing presidential nominees and electing the president. the NUP would hold the balance of power. one by the elected representatives of the lower house. NUP 16%. In those constituencies where there are only USDP and NUP candidates. In the lower house. Note. the situation is slightly different. Therefore. the breakdown would be: Presidential electoral college: Military 25%. USDP 19%. USDP 14%. but less than half of the elected seats in the lower house. and most of the other parties have made the lists of their own candidates available. Recall that according to the constitution.will compete in almost all constituencies. USDP 17%. it is statistically impossible for the ‘other parties’ to obtain a majority. the approximate division of national legislative seats will be as follows: Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw): Military 25%.

It is likely that the NUP will hold the balance of power in both houses. 3. Unless the vote-count is rigged. This is probably the best that the USDP and NUP can hope for. since they include a diverse range of democratic. The following general conclusions can be drawn. However. 2. meaning that for the selection of presidential nominees. However. short of vote rigging. the breakdown would be: Presidential electoral college: Military 25%. NUP 29%. Both of these scenarios are extremes. together with the military. the third nominee will be chosen by the military bloc. NUP and ‘other party’ candidates being elected.) 5. 1. NUP 27%. and possibly the upper house nominee as well. 4. USDP 32%. the military and the USDP together would have a comfortable majority for electing the president. The ‘other’ parties will not have a majority in either house. USDP 33%. they would not have a majority of the elected seats in either house. and 12 – 35 percent in the lower house. other parties 18% Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw): Military 25%. or who might be co-opted. It is unlikely that the USDP will have enough seats to be able to choose the lower house nominee. other parties 12% This would give the military and USDP together a small majority in both houses. will be able to make that choice. The ‘other’ parties have a reasonable chance of being able to select one of the three presidential nominees (the upper house nominee). The NUP may also hold the balance of power in electing the president from among the three nominees. These figures probably overstate the size of any democratic bloc. there is a reasonable chance that the USDP will secure enough seats so that it. ethnic and other parties (and a few independent candidates) who may not vote together and may include (a few) parties or candidates whose sympathies are closer to the ‘establishment’ parties than to the ‘democratic’ parties. USDP 30%. (Under the constitution.Scenario 2: “Equal shares” This scenario assumes that in each constituency there is an equal chance of the USDP. The approximate division of national legislative seats would be as follows: Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw): Military 25%. and the outcome is likely to be somewhere in between the two. other parties 14% On this scenario. It is very likely that the NUP will hold the balance of power in selecting the lower house presidential nominee. They can expect 18 – 50 percent in the upper house. the NUP would hold the balance of power in both houses. 6 . NUP 30%. it is unlikely that the military and USDP together will have a majority in either house. In terms of the presidential electoral college.

The National Unity Party (NUP) The NUP is the successor to the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP). it the upper house as well. then subsequently arrested Ne Win’s family. and most of the other parties have made their candidate lists available. it still represents the nominees. Ne Win himself died under house since they imply that the military and its USDP/NUP proxies will easily control most of the important levers of power after the elections. Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum Briefing Paper. which was the sole political party of Ne Win’s pre-1988 socialist one-party state.V. the present conclusions are of little interest. on social and economic issues its policies could diverge significantly from those of the military/USDP. and is nonpower in electing the president (although there threatening to the regime.8 Given that in a large number of constituencies. Conclusions It is impossible to accurately predict how voters will vote on 7 November. And if the party does end up holding the balance of power. coincide with those of the military. It should be recalled that the current The standard assumption in most regime took over from the BSPP during commentaries and analyses of the elections has the 1988 uprising. “Overview of registered political parties in Myanmar”. However. there are reasons to believe that it is much more independent of the regime and the military than is commonly assumed. while the NUP is certainly not a natural ally of the National Democratic Force and other democratic parties. But the pivotal position that the NUP might occupy should at least prompt some speculation about what would happen if the standard assumption were wrong. immediately began been that the NUP is just another proxy for the dismantling the BSPP legacy. And it may even hold the balance of political establishment. 7 . the distribution of candidates can be determined to a reasonable approximation due to the fact that the two largest parties (the USDP and NUP) will contest nearly all constituencies. Any analysis is also frustrated by the fact that the Election Commission has not published consolidated lists of approved candidates for the country as a whole. If that is the case. like the USDP. 8 For profiles of all the political parties. But despite the military/USDP and the other parties. is a good chance that the military/USDP will this does not imply that all its policies have enough seats to determine this). However. The NUP was the “establishment” party in The most important point to come out of 1990 – not a proxy of the military. only two candidates are standing – one from the USDP and one from the NUP – it is possible to make some general predictions about the result of the elections in the national legislatures. and regime. In particular. While it has tried to the balance of power in selecting one or further distance itself from the regime perhaps two of the three presidential in recent years. The NUP will also hold just 10 seats. 15 June 2010. and possibly party lists inherited from the BSPP. it should come as no surprise if it were to demand significant concessions – in terms of policy and influence – in return for its support to the military/USDP bloc. In fact. and likely in several gained only 21 percent of the vote and regional legislatures. but the analysis is that the NUP will probably hold certainly the party it was most the balance of power between the comfortable with. see Richard Horsey. in massive organizational resources and multiple ways: in the lower house.

Myanmar Phalon-Sawaw [Pwo-Sgaw] Democratic Party Taaung (Palaung) National Party Kayan National Party National Political Alliance Pa-O National Organization Democracy and Peace Party Lahu National Development Party Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organisation Peace and Diversity Party Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State Kaman National Progressive Party Inn National Development Party Wunthanu NLD (The Union of Myanmar) Kayin State Democracy and Development Party Wa National Unity Party Ethnic National Development Party Khami National Development Party Union Democratic Party Kokang Democracy and Unity Party United Democratic Party Wa Democratic Party Independent candidates Candidates a1100+ 999 163 157 47 46 44 41 39 38 34 30 25 23 22 20 18 16 13 13 10 9 9 9 7 7 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 3 ? ? ? 82 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 a Estimate. 8 . Party Union Solidarity and Development Party National Unity Party National Democratic Force Shan Nationalities Democratic Party Democratic Party (Myanmar) Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics Rakhine Nationalities Development Party Kayin People's Party 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) Chin Progressive Party All Mon Regions Democracy Party Modern People Party National Development and Peace Party Chin National Party National Democratic Party for Development Rakhine State National Unity Party.Appendix 1 – Political parties contesting the election List ordered by total number of approved candidates for all legislatures.

NUP. DPM. DPP. NUP. INDx2 USDP. MPP USDP. IND USDP. IND USDP. NDF. NUP USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NDF USDP. NDF. INDx2 USDP. KPP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NPA. 88 USDP. NDF. NUP USDP. PSDP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. DPM USDP. 88. MPP USDP. DPP. NDF USDP. IND USDP. 88 USDP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NDF USDP. NUP. “Overview of Registered Political Parties in Myanmar”. NDF USDP. NDF. 88. MPP USDP. NDF. MPP USDP. NUP USDP. 88.Appendix 2 – Yangon Region constituencies (all legislative levels) For profiles of these parties. NDF. DPM. NUP. NUP. NPA. NDF. 88 USDP. IND USDP. NUP. NDF. NUP. DPM USDP. 88 USDP. 88 USDP. NUP. NUP. NUP Region constituency 2 USDP. KPP USDP. NUP. NDF. NUP Amyotha Hluttaw USDP. DPM. NUP. DPM USDP. NDF 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 10 Dala Dawbon Hlaing Hlaingtharya Hlegu Hmawbi Htantabin Insein Kamaryut Kawhmu Kayan Kungyangon Kyauktada Kyauktan Kyeemyindaing Lanmadaw Latha Mayangone 9 . NUP USDP. NDF. KPP USDP. 15 June 2010 Township 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 Ahlone Bahan Botahtaung Cocokyun Dagon Dagon Myothit (East) Dagon Myothit (North) Dagon Myothit (Seikkan) Dagon Myothit (South) Pyithu Hluttaw USDP. NUP. NUP. NUP. NUP. 88 Region constituency 1 USDP. NDF. INDx3 USDP. NUP. NUP. 88 USDP. NDF USDP. NUP. MPP. NUP USDP. NDF USDP. NDF. UDP. PDP. NDF. NDF. NUP. DPM. NUP USDP. MPP USDP. NDF. NDF USDP. NUP USDP [default win] USDP. NUP. NUP. NUP. 88 USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP. DPM USDP. NUP USDP. IND USDP. IND USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. DPM. NUP. DPM USDP. NDF USDP. DPP. NUP USDP. DPM. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NDF. NUP. 88 USDP. 88 USDP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. IND USDP. NUP. NUP. 88. NUP USDP. NDF. NUP USDP. 88 USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP. KPP USDP. 88. NDF USDP. NUP. NUP. NPA. 88. DPM. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum Briefing Paper. NUP USDP. DPM USDP. KPP. see Richard Horsey. DPM USDP. NDF. NDF. DPM. NDF. NDF. NUP USDP. DPM USDP. NPA. NUP. DPP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. WNLD. NUP. NUP. 88 USDP. NUP. NUP. NDF. IND USDP. NUP. DPM USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NDF. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP.

NUP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NDPD USDP. DPM. NDF USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NDF. NUP. NDF. NUP. NDF USDP. NDF. NDF USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NDF. NDF USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NUP. DPM. NUP. NUP. 88. DPP USDP. NUP. NUP. IND USDP. NUP 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) Democratic Party (Myanmar) Democracy and Peace Party Independent candidates Kayin People's Party Modern People Party National Democratic Force NDPD NPA NUP PDP PSDP UDP USDP WNLD National Democratic Party for Development National Political Alliance National Unity Party Peace and Diversity Party Phalon-Sawaw [Pwo-Sgaw] Democratic Party Union Democratic Party Union Solidarity and Development Party Wunthanu NLD (The Union of Myanmar) 10 . IND USDP. NDPD. IND USDP.28 Mingaladon 29 Mingalartaungnyunt 30 North Okkalapa 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 Key 88 DPM DPP IND KPP MPP NDF Pabedan Pazundaung Sanchaung Seikgyikanaungto Seikkan Shwepyithar South Okkalapa Taikkyi Tamwe Thaketa Thanlyin Thingangkuun Thongwa Twantay Yankin USDP. IND USDP. IND USDP. NUP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. IND USDP. NDF USDP. NUP. 88 USDP. NUP USDP. NDF USDP. NUP USDP. NDF. NUP. NDPD USDP. KPP. NUP. NUP USDP. DPM. NDF. NUP USDP. 88. MPP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. NPA. NUP. NUP USDP. DPP. NUP. NUP USDP. KPP USDP. IND USDP. IND USDP. NUP. NUP USDP. NUP. NUP. KPP USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. IND USDP. NDF. NDF. NUP. UDP. IND USDP. NPA USDP. NUP. 88. NPA USDP. NUP USDP. NUP. DPM USDP. NUP. NDF USDP. NUP. NDF USDP. DPM USDP. NUP USDP. KPP. PDP USDP. NUP USDP. IND USDP. NDF. NDF. NDPD. NUP. NDF. DPP. NDF. NDPD. DPM. NUP. 88 USDP.