Naypyidaw: Ahead of the general elections in November, outrage has been triggered as the votes of over 1.5 million minorities in the conflict-ridden areas have been canceled by the election commission. The vast majority of these canceled votes are in the Rakhine state, where the conflict between the Arakan Army, which seeks autonomy of the state, and the Burmese state forces deepened since 2018.
Now, 1.2 million people in Rakhine will no longer be able to go to the ballot box on November 9. This move will further alienate the population of the troubled Rakhine state and proves the state apparatus’ support of the atrocities of the armed forces.
The election commission said in a statement on October 16 that security concerns in those areas made it impossible to guarantee free and fair elections there. While some cancellations had been expected – and had happened in 2015 – many have questioned the commission’s opaque decision-making processes.
“The EC’s procedures to cancel elections in conflict-affected constituencies are not transparent or consistent,” Min Zaw Oo, Executive Director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security, told Al Jazeera. “The cancellation will lead to the disenfranchisement of 73 percent of Rakhine voters and inevitably push them to more radical approaches, making it harder for national reconciliation,” he said.
Ninety-two parties are contesting in the elections. The Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) and the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party are the largest two parties participating. While the NLD remains popular among the country’s majority ethnic group and is expected to win, many ethnic minorities have become increasingly disillusioned with the party.
In 2015, NLD suffered its greatest defeat in the Rakhine state, where it lost to the state-based Akaran National Party (ANP). Political marginalization of minorities continued and the peace process has been stalled in Suu Kyi’s regime, with the leader remaining silent as ever on the issue of Rohingyas and other atrocities on other minorities.