Suu Kyi party set to win Burma vote with weak opposition

Suu Kyi party set to win Burma vote with weak opposition

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in the last election in 2015 - the first polls after the nation emerged from almost five decades of junta rule in 2011. A 45-year-old homemaker, Hla Myaing, says she hopes "the party I vote for will do their best for the next five years".

This year's vote comes at a time when the coronavirus is battering the economy - especially the tourism and garment industries, which are the country's main sources of hard currency.

Millions voted in the election, just the second since military rule ended in 2011.

Myanmar holds national and state elections on Sunday in which Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party will be looking to hold on to power. "The election is much important for the nation in the long-term", he said. She has urged people to vote as she tries to defend her party's absolute majority.

"I do urge you to give a vote no matter how long you have to wait or tiredness as you need to give your time on this special day for the country", Archbishop Tin Win said during Sunday Mass on November 8.

Why can't the Rohingya vote?

In September the United Nations human rights investigator to Myanmar said the election would fail to be free and fair because of the disenfranchisement of the mostly Muslim minority.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority confined to camps and villages inside Myanmar's Rakhine state, most without citizenship, were also unable to vote. But about a third of the population lives in poverty, businesses remain mired in red tape, and accusations of genocide against the country's Muslim Rohingya population are still a concern for foreign investors.

Suu Kyi's party is greatly favoured to win, though likely with a reduced bulk.

Polling stations opened on Sunday with extra measures in place to prevent virus transmission - such as temperature checks and the provision of hand sanitisers.

Although Myanmar is seeing an average of 1,100 new daily coronavirus cases - compared to a handful in early August - fears over COVID-19 appeared not to dampen turnout among the 37 million registered voters.

Myint Myint Aye, a street vendor in the commercial capital of Yangon, said the curbs meant she was "not aware" of most of the more than 90 political parties competing in the polls.

Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey said there was a "huge risk" of election or post-election violence.

Hundreds of NLD supporters gathered Sunday evening in from of the party's headquarters in Yangon to celebrate what they expect to be a victory.

Among the obstacles to some NLD reforms is a constitution that guarantees the military a political stake, including a 25% quota of legislative seats.

The constitution also gives the military control of three key ministries - home affairs, defence and border affairs.

Not only were ethnic minority groups disappointed by Suu Kyi's failure to grant them greater autonomy, but in the western state of Rakhine, the well-trained and well-armed Arakan Army - a group claiming to represent the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group - has risen to become the biggest military threat in years.

It also cancelled the election in parts of other conflict-hit states including Shan and Kachin, saying that some areas were "not in a position to hold a free and fair election".

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