The decision to scrap Myanmar by-elections at the end of this year came as a surprise to the country’s political parties, who had been gearing up to contest the 35 empty seats in Parliament.
While abrupt, the UEC, which was formed in 2010, says its decision to cancel Myanmar’s by-elections is not without grounds. The body announced in a statement that it had only made the decision after consulting with “concerned individuals and organisations”.
The UEC explained that Myanmar, as ASEAN Chair, needs to focus its efforts on organising upcoming high-profile ASEAN meetings such as the 25th ASEAN Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit that will be held in Nay Pyi Taw.
The commission also cited the high costs of holding by- elections, estimated at 2 billion kyat (S$2.53 million), as a reason for cancelling the vote. With only a year left leading up to the 2015 general elections, this would constitute a waste of time, effort and money, not only for Myanmar, but also the country’s nearly 70 political parties.
But questions have risen about whether the Union Election Commission (UEC) is truly independent from Myanmar’s ruling party. Opposition parties, especially those from the violence-prone Rakhine State and Kachin State, have also raised the need to re-examine the UEC’s decision-making process, to ensure that Myanmar will have a free and fair general election in 2015.