Military refuses to rule out a coup after claiming possible ‘vote rigging’ during election

The military on Tuesday refused to rule out staging a coup after claiming there may have been “vote rigging” during last year’s general election.

When a reporter asked if the Tatmadaw would rule out taking over again, spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun replied: “We can’t. The military will act in line with all laws, including the constitution.”

“I am neither saying the military will seize state power, nor that it won’t,” he added. 

His remarks mark a shift in tone from last week, when the military said the election result “should be accepted” despite its claims of possible fraud. 

During the November 8 poll, which delivered a huge landslide victory to the National League for Democracy (NLD), on-the-ground election observers reported no serious issues. 

But the military and its proxy party, the USDP, have since sought to cast doubt on the results and claimed, without evidence, that there are widespread “irregularities” on voter lists. 

Standing before stacks of hundreds of files piled on tables that detailed the purported findings, Zaw Min Tun claimed the military has now found over 8.6 million irregularities on the lists. 

Those include names being listed twice, underage voters, and individuals being listed who do not have National Registration Cards, according to the military.  

The military did not provide reporters with any direct evidence of fraud or any copies of voter lists containing irregularities. 

As of Tuesday, the military has issued 29 statements about its “findings” from the voter lists. The NLD has dismissed the statements as “irrelevant”, while election observers have said the military is interfering in the election process. 

“It’s important to consider how it is being evaluated, this repeated allegation that this large number of voter lists could have given rise to electoral fraud,” NLD spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt said last week.  

“We don’t know how they gathered this information, or what guidelines and procedures [it is based on]. It’s all claims,” he added.

Zaw Min Tun said the military issued its findings about voter lists with the goal of demanding an explanation from those responsible.

On Wednesday last week, the military said in a statement that “although the election result should be accepted because it reflected public aspiration” it had found repeated irregularities that “indicate the possibility of vote rigging.” 

There was now a national “political dilemma” and the president, parliament, and the Union Election Commission (UEC) must resolve it, the statement said, adding that it was not enough to argue that the UEC’s decision on the election was final.

Zaw Min Tun said on Tuesday that the military had “answers” if its demands were not met, but did not elaborate. 

He said however that the military will act in line with article 6f of the constitution, which states that the defence services are “able to participate in the National political leadership role of the State.”

Myo Nyunt responded to Zaw Min Tun’s remarks by quoting article 4 of the charter. “The sovereign power of the union is derived from the citizens and is in force in the entire country,” he said. 

There is no clause in the constitution that would allow the military to legally take power without the consent of the president. 

Article 413b of the constitution states that the president can, if necessary, declare a “military administrative order” and give executive and judicial powers to the commander-in-chief during a state of emergency. 

Over a dozen Yangon-based reporters from foreign news outlets including Reuters, AFP, EPA, Nikkei Asian Review, and Channel News Asia were flown to Naypyitaw on a military plane for the conference, one of the reporters told Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity. 

They were given a rapid Covid-19 test at the airport, the source said. “They didn’t brief us on anything in particular but told us not to take any photos of the military plane to post on Facebook,” they said.

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