‘Historic’ election praised amid concerns over unaddressed human rights issues

Press release

(Paris) Burma’s 8 November general election is a historic achievement that has the potential to mark a turning point in the country’s transition to democracy, FIDH said today.

FIDH’s praise came at the conclusion of its mission to Burma to observe the electoral process. From 3 to 10 November, FIDH representatives met with various political parties, Election Commission officials, election observers, civil society organizations, and media workers in Rangoon.

“We congratulate Burma for successfully holding this historic election. The high turnout for the polls is evidence of the Burmese people’s resolute belief in representative democracy in the face of decades of brutal oppression. Authorities must also be commended for ensuring a peaceful and orderly conduct of the voting process”

FIDH President Karim Lahidji

On Election Day, FIDH representatives observed voting procedures at 11 polling stations in five Rangoon townships. Voting proceeded smoothly and in a well-organized manner. The few complaints that surfaced were all related to inaccuracies on the voter roll.

FIDH urges the relevant authorities to ensure a smooth conclusion to the election process in accordance with Burma’s laws and regulations. This includes the declaration of the final results and the installation of successful candidates in office without undue delay. It also entails the swift, fair, and transparent adjudication of all election-related complaints.

“All political actors must show respect for democratic principles, accept the election results, and ensure a smooth transfer of power to the next administration in accordance with the will of the people”

FIDH President Karim Lahidji

Despite an overall positive assessment of the polls, FIDH remains concerned over significant flaws in the election’s legal framework and administration that resulted in a process that disenfranchised a sizable share of Burma’s population.

The 2014 amendment to the Political Parties Registration Law resulted in the exclusion of an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 persons, predominately Muslim Rohingya in Arakan State, who have been denied full citizenship. Many Rohingya politicians were also systematically denied the right to stand as candidates in the polls. In addition, several hundred thousands of people were prevented from casting their ballot as a result of the Election Commission’s decision to cancel the polls in more than 400 village-tracts and seven townships in Shan, Kachin, Mon, and Karen States and in Pegu Division over alleged concerns about armed conflict in these areas. Authorities also failed to adequately address the issue of electoral participation for Burmese migrant workers and refugees.

In addition, FIDH is disappointed by President Thein Sein’s failure to declare an amnesty for political prisoners on the occasion of the election, despite calls from civil society organizations and the National Human Rights Commission. About 100 political prisoners remain detained in prisons across Burma.

“Too many people have been unfairly denied the fundamental human right to vote in this election. If these polls are to mark a turning point in Burma’s history, it is imperative that the new executive and legislative powers address the issue of discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities and the release of all political prisoners as their top priority”

FIDH Secretary-General and ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator Debbie Stothard

FIDH remains concerned over the political parties’ worrying lack of commitment to human rights. In their dialogue with representatives of political parties, FIDH noted their reluctance to incorporate core human rights issues into their programs and policies. The refusal to adopt a human rights approach to address the issue of discrimination against Muslim Rohingya was particularly evident.

This trend reinforces the findings of a report that FIDH launched in Rangoon on 3 November. The report, titled “Half Empty: Burma’s political parties and their human rights commitments,” found that political parties failed to prioritize or commit to addressing core human rights issues. In addition, many of them refused to make any commitments on ways to address discrimination against Muslim Rohingya.

FIDH reiterates its call for representatives elected to the new Parliament to ensure that Burma’s laws are in line with international human rights standards and the country’s obligations under international law.

To view FIDH’s coverage of the 2015 election, please visit:


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