General Election of May 27, 1990

General Election of May 27, 1990
   On September 10, 1988, the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) held its second Extraordinary Congress, at which it promised to hold a multiparty general election. After the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was established on September 18, the new military junta included the holding of a general election as one of its "four tasks," indicating that it would transfer power to a duly elected government once social stability had been reestablished and the election properly carried out. Election management became the responsibility of a body redundantly named the "Elections Commission for Holding Democratic Multi-Party General Elections," given legal status on September 21. A Political Party Registration Law decreed by the SLORC a week later created the framework within which parties running in the election could be organized. Having lost its status as the only legal political party, the BSPP reorganized itself as the National Unity Party (NUP). The National League for Democracy (NLD) soon emerged as the most popular new party. Altogether, more than 230 parties were established, mostly small organizations with only a handful of members. Most of these were "deregistered" by the Commission, and only 93 parties actually contested the election.
   In February 1989, the SLORC announced that the election would be held within 14 months of the issuance of a Pyithu Hluttaw Election Law, which was decreed on May 31, 1989. Single-member election constituencies were described as being the same as those of the Pyithu Hluttaw, or BSPP-era People's Assembly. In November 1989, the exact date of the election, May 27, 1990, was announced in the state media.
   Observers doubted that the election would be fair, given the National Unity Party's superior resources (as the former BSPP) and the SLORC's initial refusal to allow outside monitoring in any form. Moreover, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest, was barred from running for a seat in a Rangoon (Yangon) constituency. The choice of the date, the 27th of the month, seemed to reflect retired leader Ne Win's preoccupation with his lucky number, nine (2 7 9).
   The election went smoothly, however, observed by representatives of the different parties, diplomats, and foreign journalists. The results-a substantial victory for the NLD, which won 59.9 percent of the popular vote and 392 (81 percent) of the 485 contested seats-indicate that the SLORC had made little or no effort to interfere with the process. The Election Commission publicly reported results for 485 constituencies in full detail (due to local conditions, seven constituencies out of a total of 492 did not choose representatives). Other winning parties were the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (23 seats), the Arakan (Rakhine) League for Democracy (11 seats), the NUP (10 seats), and the Mon National Democratic Front (5 seats). The participation rate, 72.6 percent, was the highest in Burma's short history of elections (two million votes were declared invalid and not included in the official results).
   The SLORC apparently held the election in the belief that either the National Unity Party would win a majority or that a number of small, weak parties would form a coalition that the regime could easily manipulate. That the result was quite different, even though NLD leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin U were under house arrest, suggests that Military Intelligence had underestimated the depth of popular dissatisfaction. Constituencies with large military populations, such as Mingaladon Township in northern Rangoon, returned NLD candidates, showing wide support for the opposition party among the armed forces rank and file.
   However, on July 27, 1990, the military regime issued SLORC Announcement 1/90, declaring that a civilian government could not be established until a new constitution was drafted. In the July 28, 1990, Gandhi Hall Declaration, the NLD called for a speedy transfer of power.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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