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Myanmar’s second competitive, multi-party elections are scheduled for 8 November 2020. The elections have been billed as a milestone in Myanmar’s democratic transition, yet it is increasingly obvious that the electoral process will be deeply anti-democratic and will systematically, and deliberately, disenfranchise ethnic and religious minorities, as well as civilians living in conflict-affected areas. At least 2 million people are expected to be disenfranchised in Myanmar’s 2020 elections. The Rohingya are the forefront of this exclusion.
The Rohingya strongly object to their exclusion from the political process and seek to restore their:
- Right to vote in all upcoming elections;
- Right to compete in all upcoming elections, both as parties and as candidates;
- Right to a fair electoral process, with free access to information and the Internet, including in conflict affected-areas; and
- Right to full citizenship.
It is imperative that the international community unambiguously endorses such aims, and makes clear that an electoral process that disenfranchises ethnic and religious minorities is not merely flawed but is inherently anti-democratic and undermines Myanmar’s stated aims to achieve a democratic transition. This report examines the Rohingya’s history of electoral participation in successive Burmese elections, and the abrupt disenfranchisement that took place in 2015. It offers recommendations for the international community to consider as they respond to the 2020 elections and their aftermath. It is clear that the elections will not at this stage become free and fair. The actions taken already have delegitimized the process and the outcome. It is critical that the international community acknowledges this, avoids any steps that might legitimize the elections or encourage similar behavior in future elections, and pursues a policy aimed at achieving a genuinely democratic Myanmar.