2020 Myanmar Election Recap and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Image
The 2020 Myanmar election saw the National League of Democracy (NLD) Party win its second consecutive election, gifting State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s Government a second term. Being only the third legitimate election since 1990, this result is a significant victory for Counsellor Suu Kyi and illustrates the continued development of democracy in the country. With Myanmar still recovering from military and autocratic rule, this election serves as a significant step forward for the development and strength of their democracy.
Despite the increasing pressure and international criticism around Counsellor Suu Kyi’s handling of the Rohingya crisis, her government remains popular enough to secure another overwhelming majority in both the House of Representatives and House of Nations. This suggests Counsellor Suu Kyi still has a favourable, yet precarious position in the international and public eye. Counsellor Suu Kyi has experienced criticism in her own country, particularly for her inability to deliver promised reforms to the Rohingya peoples and her Government’s seizure and arrest of students presenting their political views.
However, such criticisms have been buoyed by her international reputation as a Nobel peace prize laureate and her support for a democratic Myanmar. With this election result, Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi can rest easy knowing that her country is supporting her, but she will also be aware that she will be expected to deliver her promised reforms in her second term including support for the Rohingya peoples, and more support for freedom of speech despite what power the military may have in her Government. The election was a significant result for democracy in Myanmar with over 6900 candidates from 92 political parties contesting the election. However, as many of the country's political parties formed around ethnic lines, it is apparent that the country is still ethnically divided with some groups inadequately represented in democratic process. The Rohingya peoples were left without a voice with the Rakhine state disallowed from voting. Indeed, six Rohingya candidates had their campaigns scrapped and de-legitimsed which meant that they were unable to contest seats. This is in direct contrast to Counsellor Suu Kyi’s many promises to the Rohingya peoples that she would provide them the right to a political voice and representation.
This election demonstrates the patience of the Myanmar people, who after enduring years of dictatorships and military led autocracies, are making the most of their opportunities to exercise their right to vote. Even despite the overshadowing of the COVID-19 pandemic, constituents were prepared to vote and candidates were still eager to contest and be involved in the political process.
Myanmar’s transition to a full democracy seems to be well on track despite the limited voting rights for the Rohingya peoples. The people of Myanmar seem keen for the future of democracy in their country and are hoping for more continued progress over the next five years. How Counsellor Suu Kyi manages her next term may also have huge implications on her legacy and whether she lives up to her reputation as a beacon of democracy and freedom in Myanmar or whether she is just another cult of personality political figure who loses her way after gaining power.
Timothy Pinzone is a Bachelor of Security Studies student at Macquarie University.