Myanmar’s Election Under the Threat of Right-Wing Populism

Burmese represented over 68 percent of all 37 million eligible voters, and the Burmese-dominated areas almost unanimously cast their vote for the NLD. Its main rival, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which grew out of a civilian branch of the military junta, faced its toughest loss since the political transition began in 2010. The NLD had gained 391 seats by 11 November, exceeding the number of seats required to form a new government (322), while the USDP won only 22 seats. Ethnic parties from different states were also able to boost representation, with the biggest share (13 seats) going to the Shan National League for Democracy which stood for election in the Shan constituencies.

The election victory marked the beginning of a difficult path ahead for the NLD, as there are new signs of threats from the army and the ultra-nationalist parties. The elections offered more chances for the right-wing populists under the emblem of the USDP as well as their allied parties to spread hateful messages. Many local election observers had warned that a well-connected ultra-nationalist network was assembling on the ground. Although weaker than it was under the USDP government, it still possesses considerable strength. The important question now is whether the winning party, the NLD, has enough courage and strength to stop the further spread of racism so deeply rooted in many parts of Myanmar’s society.