Ethnic Politics and the 2015 Elections in Myanmar
Myanmar is heading to the polls in November 2015, with an expected shift in power from the old elite to the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). However it remains unclear whether the new political space created by the transition away from military rule will bring significant legislative power to ethnic nationality-based parties.
• The 2015 general election presents an important opportunity to give political voice to Myanmar’s diverse ethnic nationality communities and empower them to pursue their aspirations, provided that it is genuinely free and fair.
• If successfully held, the general election is likely to mark another key step in the process of national transition from decades of military rule. However the achievement of nationwide peace and further constitutional reform are still needed to guarantee the democratic rights, representation and participation of all peoples in determining the country’s future.
• Although nationality parties are likely to win many seats in the polls, the impact of identity politics and vote-splitting along ethnic and party lines may see electoral success falling short of expectations. This can be addressed through political cooperation and reform. It is essential for peace and stability that the democratic process offers real hope to nationality communities that they can have greater control over their destiny.
• Inequitable distribution of political and economic rights has long driven mistrust and conflict in Myanmar. The 2015 general election must mark a new era of political inclusion, not division, in national politics. After the elections, it is vital that an inclusive political dialogue moves forward at the national level to unite parliamentary processes and ethnic ceasefire talks as a political roadmap for all citizens.