Insights and Analysis

Myanmar Prepares for Historic 2015 Elections: A Primer

November 4, 2015

By Kim N. B. Ninh

This Sunday, November 8, more than 30 million voters will head to the polls for landmark nationwide general elections in Myanmar, in which all 91 political parties will be able to contest for the first time in many decades. Many of these voters will also be voting for the first time in their lives. While attention is focused on the presidency, in fact, there are over a thousand parliamentary seats up for grabs across the country’s ethnically diverse regions. While expectations for the elections are high, voters’ familiarity with the organs of state, the electoral process, the political parties, and the candidates is exceptionally low. A recent Asia Foundation survey, Myanmar 2014: Civic Knowledge and Values in a Changing Society, found that just 12 percent of respondents know, for example, how the president is elected. (Read more from the survey).

To help navigate these historic elections, The Asia Foundation has developed an innovative voter education initiative called MaePaySoh (Let’s Vote). We’ve engaged young, tech-savvy Myanmar developers to generate election-related mobile and web apps for voters in the newly wired country. Watch this video to learn how MaePaySoh is helping voters get the information they need for Election Day.

For Sunday’s elections, here’s what you need to know.

When are the elections? Nov. 8, 2015

What are the elections for? To elect members of Bicameral Union Parliament (Upper House and Lower House) and 14 Unicameral State/Region Parliaments

What kind of electoral system will be used? First-past-the-post electoral system

How many eligible voters are there? About 32 million (out of a population of about 51 million)

How many members are there in the Union Parliament Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw)? 224 members: 168 directly elected (75% of seats, 12 representatives from each state/region) and 56 military appointed (25% of seats)

MM-Election-InfographicHow many members are there in the Union Parliament’s Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw)? 440 members: 330 directly elected (1 representative from each of Myanmar’s 330 townships) and 110 military appointed (25% of the seats)

How many members are there in the State/Region Parliaments (S/R)? 673 members (636 for the S/R Parliament and 29 for ethnic affairs ministers). Number of members elected will be based on the number of townships in a given state/region, with each township divided into two constituencies. A representative will be elected from each constituency. Similar to the Union Parliament, 25% of the total number of members in each S/R Parliament will be military appointed.

Who are ethnic affairs ministers? Ethnic affairs ministers will be elected in the states and regions where an ethnic minority population is at least 0.1 percent of the national population.

How many candidates are contesting in the elections? 6,040 (of whom 13% are women)

How many political parties are participating in the elections? 91

What is the percentage of independent candidates? 5%

Which political parties are fielding the most candidates (and what is their percentage of women candidates)?

1. National League of Democracy (15%)

2. Union Solidarity and Development Party (10%)

3. National Unity Party (11%)

4. National Development Party (18%)

5. Myanmar Farmer Development Party (12%)

Are there places in Myanmar where elections will not be held? The elections will not be held in a number of townships due to ongoing security concerns in Shan, Kachin, Kayin, Mon, and Bago States, or about 2.6% of all wards and village tracts in Myanmar.

When will election results be announced? Votes will be counted at the polling station in front of witnesses and observers when polls close at 4 pm on Election Day. Advance votes will be counted first, followed by ballots cast on Election Day. Polling station vote-counting will be completed and posted at the polling station on the same evening. Official election results will be announced on a rolling basis starting the day after the elections, and may take up to two weeks.

How will the president be elected? Members of the new Union Parliament will form a presidential electoral college comprised of: Elected representatives of the Upper House, Elected representatives of the Lower House, and Military MPs from both houses. Each group will nominate a candidate for the presidency, and both houses will then vote. The candidate with the largest number of votes becomes president, and the other two candidates become vice presidents.

Sources: Myanmar Union Election Commission, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, MaePaySoh API, Enlightened Myanmar Research

Kim Ninh is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Myanmar. She can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

Related locations: Myanmar, Washington DC
Related programs: Good Governance
Related topics: Elections


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