Myanmar sets Nov 8 for election to test democratic reforms

A man wearing a face mask walks past the closed Sule pagoda and a mosque in downtown Yangon. (AP pic)

YANGON: Myanmar state media on Wednesday announced Nov 8 as the date for a parliamentary election set to serve as a test of the country’s first democratic government in half a century.

A statement attributed to union election commission chairman Hla Thein and read out on state television said a “multi-party general election for the parliament” would be held on that day.

The polls are seen by analysts as an important test of Myanmar’s transition away from direct military rule.

Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won power in a landslide in 2015 that ended decades of junta rule.

But her administration has come under pressure internationally over a military crackdown that drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh in 2017.

The army continues to wield enormous power under the constitution, which guarantees it control over key ministries, and 25% of seats in parliament.

While Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party is expected to do better than others in the election, its overwhelming majority could be dented, analysts say.

“There is greater disaffection with the NLD today, especially among minority ethnic communities,” said Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based political analyst with the International Crisis Group.

“But Aung San Suu Kyi remains extremely popular with her base — the Bamar majority in the centre of the country — and it is difficult to see any outcome other than another NLD landslide.”