Military-linked parties begin three-day conference on switch to PR electoral system

The military’s proxy party and its allies on Friday began a three-day conference in Yangon to discuss changing Myanmar’s electoral system to one of Proportional Representation, which would make it easier for less popular junta-aligned parties to win seats. 

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), along with several other military-linked parties that fared poorly in last year’s general election, were invited by the jnuta’s election commission to present papers and hold discussions about the new system at the Yangon regional government headquarters on Ahlone road.

Among those attending is the National Democratic Force (NDF) party, which first submitted a proposal in parliament to switch to PR in 2014 but was defeated after a constitutional challenge from the National League for Democracy (NLD). 

“We will get to submit and read our papers so I will be presenting a paper that explores how to switch to a PR system that is suitable for Myanmar,” Aung Zin, a secretary of the NDF, told Myanmar Now ahead of the conference.

Myanmar’s elections currently operate under a First Past the Post system, meaning the candidate who wins the most votes in each constituency becomes an MP, while all the votes that went to the losing candidates are effectively thrown out.

Under PR, the number of seats awarded to each party is determined by the overall share of the vote that it wins across the country. That means parties whose candidates fail to secure a majority of votes in any constituency can still have seats in parliament. 

The current system was brought in by the military as part of its widely hated 2008 constitution, but since then the NLD has secured two massive landslide victories in which the percentage of seats it won was even greater than the percentage of votes it won nationwide. 

Some analysts have suggested that the humiliating defeat dealt to the USDP by the NLD last year may have been a factor in the military’s February 1 coup. Since the power grab, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing has been vocal about his desire to switch to PR. 

In late September Khin Maung Oo of the junta’s election commission said that 29 constituencies for regional ethnic affairs ministers, as well as Myanmar’s six autonomous regions, would keep the old system but the rest of the country would change to PR. 

“We will use the PR system according to the Constitution and the election laws. We will not be changing the number of MPs,” he said during a press conference.

Aung Zin, of the NDF, said it was not unconstitional to switch to PR and that election commission laws allowed for such a change.

“We are switching to the PR system according to the Constitution and the election laws so that our country can have a parliament that includes all kinds of political parties,” he said.

The junta has repeatedly said it intends to hold new elections, despite the fact vast swaths of the population are in open revolt against its rule and the chances of a legitimate poll being held under the coup regime are considered practically non-existent.  

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