Check here for Q&A's with prominent party politicians, experts, political pundits, and election monitors to hear their thoughts about the upcoming election and the political field in Myanmar.
But that doesn't mean the conversation is just for the pundits! Get involved: send us a message at Facebook.com/TheMyanmarTimes, comment on a post, or Tweet us @TheMyanmarTimes using the hashtag #MyanmarElection, or send us an email (with a photo, if you wish!) at firstname.lastname@example.org to have your voice heard!
Voxpop: Taking the political temperature Wednesday, 18 November
How do you think the transition of power will go, and what will be the priorities over the next few months?
"I think the stability of the country during this period of political change depends on how the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, the current government and the military regard Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD’s victory."
'Election like a return of ‘rightful owners': Q&A: Ko Min Ko Naing
Friday, November 6
"It’s as if the rightful owners have come back to claim their property, rather than that one party has defeated another. In 1988, people came out onto the streets to protest. On [November 8], they demonstrated silently at the polling station. In 1988, people’s bodies were stained with blood. On [November 8], people’s little fingers were stained with ink. This was a historic development, and we’ve seen the results. The point is, what to do now."
Voxpop: What do you think will happen during the transition of power? Wednesday, 18 November
“I’m worried that the military government will not cede power. They have controlled the country for more than 50 years, so it will be hard for them to let go. But no matter what happens, we, the people of Myanmar, will never support violence. We will control ourselves and stay peaceful.
Win or lose, we will accept the decision’: Q&A: U Htay Oo
Friday, November 6
"It’s all about gaining the people’s trust. Voters will support someone they can depend on. Our party has always worked for the benefit of the people."
1/2 you'd think they would lay off the whole arresting student protesters during election week. https://t.co/Fbu4pyl5KV— (###) (@25hip25) November 5, 2015
Shadaw is one of the country’s smallest constituencies, with just over 4000 voters. Yet it is also the setting for a curious battle between the USDP, the NLD and a key ally of President U Thein Sein, U Aung Min, who leads the government’s peace negotiations.
U Aung Min registered as an independent in Shadaw after former USDP leader Thura U Shwe Mann refused to let him stand in the seat. He tells senior reporter Wa Lone about the challenges of canvassing in a township where roads are often impassable in wet weather, armed ethnic groups remain active and few of the residents understand Myanmar language.
But constitution does say that presidency is the highest office of the govt.... https://t.co/F24vi0KUqT— Laignee Barron (@laignee) November 5, 2015
#MyanmarElection Poll: Have party campaigns changed your mind about who to vote for, or had you previously decided?— The Myanmar Times (@TheMyanmarTimes) November 3, 2015
"If the NLD wins and the government will change, the economic system can also change. For example, some European countries have limited trade with Myanmar – but the NLD can bring about change in every sector."
Phyu Phyu Nyunt is a Yangon Region parliament candidate for the National Unity Party (NUP) in Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township’s constituency 2. Way back in 1977, the now 61-year-old candidate joined the Burma Socialist Programme Party of former strongman Ne Win. The BSPP was replaced by the NUP ahead of the 1990 elections, in which the NUP suffered a crushing defeat by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Phyu Phyu Nyunt spoke with Myanmar Now reporter Ei Cherry Aung about her party’s campaign and the situation in her constituency, as well as her proposal to curb online vice and increase punishments for crime.
Dr. Toe Toe Aung is the Mon State Minister for Civil Development for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). He is contesting a seat in the state capital Mawlamyine and hopes to secure reelection in the state parliament on Nov. 8.
In an interview with Myanmar Now reporter Phyo Thiha Cho at the party’s regional headquarters in Mawlamyine, the 45-year-old medical doctor discussed his campaign challenges and the links between the nationalist Ma Ba Tha movement and the USDP in Mon State.
Ma Naw Htee Ywar Mue has been with the Khawechan School for the Blind in Mayangone township for 16 years.
On the sidelines of the 24th Mayor’s Cup – held on October 15 to mark International White Cane Day, promoting better awareness and support of people with visual impairments – she spoke to Zayar Lin about democracy, disability, and the pros and cons of touching words.
"Spoilt rice in a new pot is still spoilt rice." Daw Aung San Suu Kyi getting the hang of folksy politicking: https://t.co/OmobAJ3qSg— Simon Lewis (@Simondlewis) October 28, 2015
Ma Tin Tin Mar, Thin Pyant Nwe Beauty Salon owner
"I’m voting in Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, and my whole family is on the voters list. However, I don’t yet know exactly how to cast vote correctly, nor have I met anyone campaigning for the political parties. I have heard of issues to do with mixing politics and religion, though, as I always read news online. I also voted in 2010. Since then, during the current government’s term, we haven’t enjoyed significant changes. I’ve urged my staff to vote on election day because I hope we will see positive changes that will help our citizens to enjoy better living standards.
Personally, I will only vote for a party which brings hope of a positive change."
Some of Myanmar President Thein Sein's promotional material looks late '90s rap album covers pic.twitter.com/Mr0l1pLEgV— Patrick Winn (@pwinn5) October 26, 2015
Ko Aung Thein Myint, J'Donuts manager
"I’m voting in Tarmwe township. Everything was fine on the voters list when I checked. I meet campaigners from political parties almost daily, though I don’t have much interest in what kind of promises they are giving. I do know how to vote correctly, though: On election day, we have to cast three votes. I read news both from newspapers and online regularly. I feel we can’t mix politics and religion because they are separate issues, and that it is important to vote for the right party. There are not many parties which can work for the interest of the country, so I will vote for the one which is powerful and seems to really implement changes. Over the past four years, we haven’t seen many changes that produced positive effects on our lives and those of others around us. Hopefully we will see significant and positive changes in living standards, education and so on beyond 2015."
NDF party which split frm NLD in 2010 campaign in Yangon w/slogan 'nationalism is priority' obviously attacking NLD pic.twitter.com/FxdGEkL7li— Nan Tin Htwe (@htwenge) October 25, 2015
Myanmar govt struggled to produce voter lists, but knows that there are exactly 16,999 cinema seats in the country: https://t.co/L3HqSr2Lw0— Simon Lewis (@Simondlewis) October 21, 2015
At 27, U Lum Zawang is the Kachin Democratic Party’s youngest candidate, vying for the No 2 constituency seat in the Kachin State Hluttaw.
He spoke to chief political correspondent Ei Ei Toe Lwin about perceptions of reform inside and outside Kachin, the dangers of campaigning in conflict zones and whether the election could lead to more powers for the currently toothless state and region parliaments.
Union Solidarity and Development Party Amyotha Hluttaw representative U Tun Zaw – better known as Ko Pauk – tells Htoo Thant that his standing as a businessperson and philanthropist in rural Bago Region will be enough to see him hold his seat
"My name is well known across the region, because I have my own businesses – a mill, a commodity wholesale centre, car trading, and gold selling and buying."
"I want to act for the benefit of the people. I am willing to play a part to implement democracy. I helped poor clients when I was a lawyer. I stood on the side of citizens against injustice. Now, I wish to continuing using my legal knowledge to help people."
Daw Thet Thet Khine is joint secretary general of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) and vice president of Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs’ Association.
“I want to get involved in politics,” she told The Myanmar Times. “Like business people, politicians thrive on competition, and that kind of competition is good for the country.”
Khin Ma Ma Myo is the founder and executive director of the Yangon-based Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security Studies (MIPSS), which was set up this year. Myanmar Now reporter Phyo Thiha Cho spoke with Khin Ma Ma Myo about Myanmar’s political situation ahead of the election, the prospects of reforms to the 2008 constitution, and the military’s continued control over the ministries of defence, home affairs and border security.
Ko Nay Phone Latt knows quite a bit about what happens when politics and technology collide. He’s a third-generation National League for Democracy member – now running on the party’s ticket to take a seat in the Yangon Region Hluttaw – whose early brushes with activism include joining the 1988 uprising as an eight-year-old.
Here, he speaks to Catherine Trautwein about Myanmar’s changes and how social media will impact the November 8 election.
The Kachin Independence Organisation is one of the largest groups refusing to join a nationwide ceasefire agreement which the government intends to sign with a minority of armed ethnic factions on October 15. KIO deputy chief of staff Major General Gun Maw spoke to senior reporter Ye Mon of The Myanmar Times at a summit of armed ethnic organisationsin Chiang Mai, held from September 28 to 30, when divisions among them dealt a blow to hopes that a genuine "nationwide" ceasefire would be reached.
National Unity Party candidate Ko Thu Ryain Shwe talks to The Myanmar Times about the changing tech landscape, the benefits (and challenges) of using social media to campaign and communicate – on Facebook.
"The election business is all about communication. Among the parties and candidates, one who can communicate effectively will be a winner. It is clear."
Trevor Wilson was Australia’s ambassador to Myanmar from 2000 to 2003, a period in which the military junta’s grip of power seemed absolute.
Myanmar Now chief correspondent Thin Lei Win spoke to Wilson on the sidelines of a conference on “Elections and Ethics,” organised by the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung in Naypyitaw on Sept 25-26, and asked him how Myanmar has changed since the end of military rule and what further changes the elections could bring.
Businessperson U Khin Hlaing is no stranger to controversy.
A well-known entrepreneur, he currently sits on Yangon City Development Committee, but spoke to Zay Yar Lin about throwing his hat into the ring to sit in the Pyithu Hluttaw from Yangon’s Kyeemyindaing township. Known as an outspoken politician, he was vocal in opposing four property developments near Shwedagon Pagoda earlier in 2015.
U Hnin Oo, chair of the Myanmar Shrimp Association
"The election has to be done, because it’s the right time for our democratic country. The condition of the election is connected with the economy, not only locally but also internationally. That’s why the 2015 election is very important for our country.
Whoever wins the election, the party must be responsible for the country. We businessmen hope that after the election results come out, the government will be formed and it will solve any economic crises.
We hope international business organisations will come and help the country’s economy after the election.
I want a free and fair election, no matter which party wins."
U Kaung Myint Htut was detained by police in 1988 when he was just 13, and went on to spend years as a political prisoner before deciding to register as a candidate.
“Both are just trying to get power. The NLD never allied with other political groups – it believes it can be the only winner, and the USDP think the same,” he said. “The NLD told people it will be the only winner, but it can’t form a government after the election. People have been expecting too much.”
Daw Moh Moh Aung, general secretary of the Myanmar Real Estate Service Association
"The country’s economy has been very slow this year. Investors are waiting and thinking a lot before doing business this year, because of the 2015 election.
The country’s economy needs to be refreshed in 2016, depending totally on the election results. The real estate sector has been much more slow compared to previous years. I’ve been in the business for about 20 years as a real estate agent, and I’ve never seen a market move so slowly.
The election is happening at the right time to aid a return to business. I hope our business [real estate] will be strong again in 2016. For the election winner, it is difficult for me to say because we have heard some are not sure of the voter lists yet. But whoever wins, the main point is the government should have a strong economic policy." – Myat Nyein Aye
Aung Thu, a former political prisoner and a labour affairs expert at the 88 Generation and Open Society, is one of the 323 independent candidates contesting Myanmar’s November 8 general elections.
He speaks with Myanmar Now reporter Ei Cherry Aung about his decision to run as an independent candidate and his expectations about the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party’s election strategy.
The 34-year-old is aiming for a Lower House seat in Falam Township, where her parents were born. She is one of five women candidates from the Chin Progressive Party (CPP) to run in the Nov. 8 polls in Myanmar. In an interview with Myanmar Now chief correspondent Thin Lei Win she spoke of her motivations and the challenges of entering politics.
Having sat as MP for Yangon Region’s Pazundaung township in the Pyithu Hluttaw since 2010, U Aung Zin of the National Democratic Force is now spearheading the party’s push into Nay Pyi Taw constituencies, targeting a seat in Ottarathiri. He spoke to Htoo Thant about the decision to realign his base with his interests, and the importance of nurturing the country’s agrarian majority.
"We will work for farmers’ rights and seek land ownership rights for those who are cultivating. We will also try to ensure good-quality paddy seeds for farmers and have them sold for a good price. Then we will work for women’s rights, to protect them from losing their rights."
We have much more freedom of expression now and self censorship has decreased. During the 2010 election, local journalists didn’t cover news freely like they do now; often, they decided not to cover something that they thought [would be censored]. Myanmar Journalist Network and Myanmar Press Council (Interim) member U Myint Kyaw tells Nyein Ei Ei Htwe about newfound media freedoms and their limits, as well how they should be used when covering the election.
Ko Myint Than, Kyal Sin Community Volunteer Group leader, Ingapu township
"I’m interested in the election because it can change something in our life but I don’t know who the candidates for our township are. I also don’t know the election date … We have to struggle for our basic needs. Our village is a remote village and we are poor so I will choose the candidate who can work for the development for our people and village. We can’t do village development by ourselves. We need the authorities or government to make our area developed. The election campaign will come soon. I will choose the candidate based on this campaign. I will recommend other residents vote for the one I think is the best candidate for our village. The candidate elected in 2010 met my expectations – he built bridges, a school and roads in our area.
Far from Myanmar's byzantine politics, Ardeth Thawnghmung says, people 'more concerned with daily economic struggle' http://t.co/I4rIUSQPKm— Gwen Robinson (@RobinsonBKK) September 12, 2015
U Than Win, 55, security guard at Yuzana Plaza, Tarmwe township
I have to vote in Mingalar Taung Nyunt township in the election. I don’t know the candidates for our township. I don’t have time to discuss or learn about politic because I have to work. I don’t know most of the parties, just the two famous ones, the National League for Democracy and the USDP. My chief always told me about politics. I have little knowledge about the election … but it can bring something good for us. We have to choose the candidate who will bring change for our life. I just want to live a peaceful life without scaring anyone. In the last election, in 2010, I voted in Ayeyarwady Region. The [winning] candidate built roads and schools in our region. He did good things for us. – Thu Thu Aung
The Rakhine National Party has 78 candidates on its books for the election – but just two are women. The party’s sole MP, Daw Khin Saw Wai, who will re-contest her Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Rathedaung on November 8, tells Ei Ei Toe Lwin about her expectations for the election
Burmese Muslim Association (UK based) accuses NLD and USDP of colluding to exclude Muslims from election. Still no comment from Suu Kyi.— Jonah Fisher (@JonahFisherBBC) September 13, 2015
Newly installed Union Solidarity and Development Party acting chair U Htay Oo will again contest the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Hinthada on November 8. He tells chief political correspondent Ei Ei Toe Lwin about the party’s leadership change, its election strategy and why the public should vote USDP.
Ma Thida (Sanchaung), writer; former political prisoner
"There is a strong custom of hesitation when it comes to giving women positions of authority in politics. Most women also like to give support from behind. There should be a state law to boost and protect women’s political role. There should also be specific laws to should guarantee women education. From another angle, getting rid of discrimination, attacking and bullying against women should be enforced. As for the rest of society, we have to ... get rid of the way people perceive women as being weak."
– Zon Pann Pwint
I'm seeing "Sponsored" (aka paid-for) Facebook posts from none other than Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Sanctions breach, anyone? #Myanmar— Alex Bookbinder (@abookbinder) September 12, 2015
Grace Swe Zin Htaik, actress, founder of Communication Services Group
"So far women are still lacking when it comes to their interest and involvement in political affairs, because women are considered second-class in society according to Myanmar culture, values and traditional standards. A good woman is deemed one who best supports a man to improve his qualification and performance, or who makes sacrifices for him. That standard is still felt today. But women are stepping out more than before. They need to value their own quality, and they should know that it is the same as men’s. Moreover, women need unity to be recognised as smart. Not only in Myanmar but also in other Southeast Asian countries, women tend to have little sympathy with other women, always commenting negatively when another woman faces a challenge or becomes involved in a situation.
– Nyein Ei Ei Htwe
Asst Sec Russel: Despite structural flaws,elections can be significant step forward for credibility, sustainability of #Burma reform process— EAP Bureau (@USAsiaPacific) September 11, 2015
Asst Sec Russel: There is no certainty of success. But in #Burma, I did find a certainty of purpose. People want their country to succeed.— EAP Bureau (@USAsiaPacific) September 11, 2015
Ko Thet Naing Lin, Mandalay resident
"I will vote for the party which can really work for the benefit of the public. I really want them to really work for the country. If the candidate I vote for wins, I want him or her to work for the country first, rather than for our own township.
It’s fair to say there has not been much change under the present government. We can only hope for more positive changes and development once the new government takes office. There is only one party which can really change the country and that is the National League for Democracy. I believe the NLD can make changes and I think they will win the election."
Ma Nyein Nyein, Mandalay resident
"I saw few significant changes under the current government and I think it is being controlled by someone behind it. When the new government takes office after the election, I hope the public can gain freedom of speech.
I think the NLD and USDP will split the vote in the coming election. Whoever wins, I hope the new government will work for the benefit of the country. But even though the coming election will decide a new government, I don’t expect to see significant changes even after it takes power.
If the candidate I vote for wins the election, I want him or her to work hard for the benefit of our township, including for basic needs such as cleaning."