Myanmar election authority drops proposed election delay after opposition rejection

Myanmar election authority drops proposed election delay after opposition rejection

Myanmar election authority drops proposed election delay after opposition rejection

Updated 14 October 2015, 19:40 AEDT

Myanmar election authorities confirm that landmark polls will go ahead in November after the opposition rejects an official call for the vote to be postponed due to flooding.

Myanmar election authorities have confirmed that landmark polls will go ahead on November 8 after the opposition rejected official calls for the vote to be postponed due to widespread flooding.

In an announcement read out on state media, the Union Election Commission said it had decided to go ahead with elections as planned after floating the idea of a delay at a meeting with major parties in the capital Napyidaw.

Key points:

  • Myanmar's November 8 poll will go ahead
  • Voting still cancelled in much of country's northern Shan and Kachin states due to unrest
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party forecast to make major electoral gains

"Following a review of the possible pros and cons of postponing the election date, the commission's decision is that the general elections will be held on November 8, 2015, as previously stated," said the announcement.

News of the meeting had earlier sent ripples of alarm through the nation where election fever is in full swing just weeks ahead of a vote seen as a crucial test of the country's emergence from junta rule.

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is forecast to make major gains in the polls.

Earlier, the party said it was against any attempt to stall the first nation-wide vote it has contested in a quarter century.

Win Htein, a spokesman for the NLD, said the party was alone in opposing the postponement.

Election rules state that authorities can suspend voting in constituencies affected by natural disaster or unrest.

Myanmar is still recovering from massive floods in recent months that damaged infrastructure across the country and displaced 1.6 million people, but they were not previously thought to threaten the date of the polls.

Fight for democracy after decades of conflict

Officials earlier on Tuesday said they had cancelled voting in swathes of northern Shan and Kachin states bordering China because of ongoing fighting with ethnic rebels.

"Some village areas have security restrictions and we have security concerns about those," said Tun Aung Khaing, a senior election official in Kachin State.

"Others are in the control of Kachin [rebels] where we are not capable of holding elections."

That move had been anticipated and mainly affects areas battered by war or beyond the government's writ, in a country where several ethnic minority armies still resist state control.

Myanmar is preparing to sign a limited ceasefire on October 15 as it tries to end decades of civil war.

The last ceasefire between the army and Kachin rebels collapsed in 2011 under a new quasi-civilian government.

The November polls are set to crown four years of unprecedented openness in a nation driven into poverty and isolation by nearly half a century of repressive military rule.

But there have been increasing fears that reforms had been stalling in recent months.

Parties are already taking to the streets to drum up support, and Ms Suu Kyi has held large rallies across the country attended by crowds of flag-waving supporters.

The NLD won elections in 1990 but the military rejected the results and repeatedly put Ms Suu Kyi under house arrest until after 2010 polls.

The army-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party swept those elections, unopposed by the NLD.

Ms Suu Kyi cannot be president under constitutional rules barring the post to a person who married and had children with a foreigner.