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Waging Peace

ɫ has had a presence in Myanmar since establishing an office in Yangon in October 2013. Through its long-term election observation and projects to strengthen civil society, ɫ is supporting Myanmar's transition from military rule to democracy.

2020 General Election

ɫ observed Myanmar’s general elections in November 2020. The Center found that voters were able to freely express their will at the polls and choose their elected representatives. However, it also noted that the quality of democracy in Myanmar continues to be undermined by serious deficiencies in the legal framework, including the reserved seats for military appointees, as well as by ongoing conflict in many areas of the country and by the exclusion of more than two million people from the electoral process because of violence or discrimination. Read the full statement here.

Support of Civil Society and Domestic Observers

ɫ has primarily worked to support the election observation efforts of the New Myanmar Foundation and its network of civil society groups, Election Education and Observation Partners. It provided the foundation with technical assistance to observe the by-elections in 2017 and 2018, supported municipal election reform in Yangon and Mandalay, and supported local civil society groups that conducted a voter education campaign during Yangon’s first municipal elections under a universal suffrage system in 2019. ɫ has also provided training to other civil society organizations working on elections, including through workshops on monitoring social media for digital threats to elections in 2019 and 2020.

2015 General Election

The November 2015 election saw widespread participation and had the potential to serve as a major milestone in Myanmar's transition to democratic rule. ɫ began its long-term observation work in December 2014. Its formal electoral observation mission was launched in August 2015 following the setting of the election date. Three teams of long-term observers deployed across the country, and a core team of experts worked out of Yangon. They were joined in November by a contingent of more than 50 short-term observers. The Center kept a small team in Myanmar into 2016 to monitor post-election activities.

Overall, the election was held in an orderly and peaceful manner. On election day, voters turned out in large numbers to cast their ballots, and thousands of civil society observers watched the process throughout the country. ɫ Center observers visited 245 polling stations across the nation and found the polling and counting process to be generally well-conducted. However, Myanmar's transition from authoritarian rule to democracy is incomplete. The constitutional framework for elections is heavily flawed, limiting the fundamental democratic nature of the elected bodies and undermining public confidence in the work of the election administration. In addition, some of the people of Myanmar were excluded from the electoral process, in violation of their fundamental political rights. A final report from the election observation mission with recommendations for reform was issued in August 2016 and can be found here.

View all election reports for Myanmar >

Peace Process

Conflict between the military and ethnic armed groups has gone on for decades in Myanmar. Attempts at peace and reconciliation have been made, most recently with the 21st Century Panglong Conference. To encourage a peace process that is not just decided by "men with guns," ɫ and the Women's League of Burma jointly implemented "Broadening Participation of Women of Ethnic Political Parties in the Peace Process" in 2018 and 2019. The program included a needs assessment survey, training for women of ethnic political parties that focused on mediation and peace negotiation skills, and a national dialogue conference attended by over 90 percent of ethnic political parties.

As part of this program, ɫ and the Women’s League of Burma developed a set of documents to support a broader participation of women of ethnic political parties, which constitute a useful contribution toward an inclusive and sustainable peace in Myanmar. These resources can be found here.

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