Tue, 26 Sep 2023

Myanmar junta, Russia agree to cooperate in controversial election

Khalid Umar Malik
15 Sep 2023, 18:39 GMT+10

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar - According to state media, Myanmar's junta and Russia signed a memorandum on "cooperation in election activities" on Wednesday as both governments prepare for elections that critics say will be neither free nor fair.

As Myanmar's military struggles to crush armed opposition to its February 2021 coup, Moscow is a close ally of the junta, providing arms and diplomatic support.

Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the Junta, met President Vladimir Putin last year during one of several trips to Russia since seizing power. Myanmar's military has called Moscow's invasion of Ukraine "justified."

During a recent visit to Russia, officials from the junta-stacked election commission signed a "memorandum of understanding for cooperation in election activities" with their Russian counterparts, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar.

According to the newspaper, the delegation "also investigated Russia's election methods, election conditions, and campaign procedures."

The head of Russia's election commission has also invited Myanmar to observe next year's presidential elections.

This vote is expected to extend Putin's rule until at least 2030, despite many of his critics being imprisoned or in exile.

Myanmar's military has justified its coup with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections, which Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) easily won.

A senior official from a military-backed party told AFP earlier this month that the junta will most likely hold new elections in 2025.

The US has declared that any elections held under the junta would be a "sham," and analysts believe the military's opponents would target them.

Russia has stated that it supports the generals' plan for elections.

Suu Kyi's NLD, which has consistently defeated military-backed parties in elections, was dissolved earlier this year for failing to re-register under strict new military-drafted electoral rules.

The coup ended a 10-year democratic experiment and threw the country into chaos.

According to the United Nations, fighting between the military and its opponents has displaced nearly two million people.

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