Myanmar: Monitoring the Elections Through Facebook

Election campaign by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Image by Demo Waiyan/Facebook.

Myanmar has been implementing a lot of reforms in the past years which included the release from prison of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the suspension of a controversial dam project and the unprecedented release of hundreds of political prisoners. And now, it’s time for by-elections.

Two major parties, namely National League for Democracy (NLD), which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) dominated by former military generals are competing for all 45 places in parliament while some other parties such as The Democratic Party, New National Democracy Party (NDP), National Unity Party (NUP) and so on are competing for fewer places.

Myanmar Facebook users are overwhelmed with different news regarding the election which is coincidentally on April Fools’ Day.

Khin Nyein Chan posted a photo of a USDP campaign in which they were using a photo of United States (US) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar last November. Many Facebook users have commented that such campaigning is inappropriate.

“Lion tries to fly intimating peacock,
Couldn’t fly and fall”

Mg Mg Lwin Eu wrote [my] the rhyme above about a photo of a USDP election campaign posted by Demo Waiyan where some people were believed to have been forced to attend a speech event comparing to NLD’s massive success in campaign activities, since the lion is the icon of USDP and the peacock is that of NLD.

There are also news reports and rumours from unknown sources, whose impact could be large and may affect the result of the elections. Demo Waiyan shared [my] news he heard that the blank spaces to tick on ballot paper are wax-coated in some places so that voters won’t be able to vote properly.

Some rumours, which are believed to have really happened, sounded like real April Fools’ Day stuff. One of those claimed [my] that the USDP tried to give away a shirt and a cap to a beggar in Mandalay and he declined to accept the gifts. Some said [my] that a USDP member in Tadar Oo, Mandalay kept on insulting NLD with loud speakers for a whole night.

The most famous rumour [my] about USDP lately is that they were campaigning for election by treating Briyani to public in East Dagon, Yangon. It is also mentioned [my] that a USDP representative gave away cash during his campaign speech.

Despite the best efforts made by USDP, a majority of people are eagerly supporting NLD even though not all of them are eligible to vote in this by-election. In a small survey [my] made on Facebook, 974 people said they are going to vote for NLD while only 24 people chose USDP.

“We’ll go and vote for NLD tomorrow 5 AM.”

This was posted [my] by Myint Myint Khin Pe, wife of actor Kyaw Thu and one of the founders of Free Funeral Services Society on her Facebook.

Htoo Tay Zar, a blogger and citizen media journalist, wrote about his views on NLD and USDP:

“Most people always said NLD Party as opposition party… For me, USDP Party is more like opposition party… Today, I just witnessed USDP Party’s campaigning trip around Khawmu township.. No one pays attention to em.. they are also not very active.. party members are just like sleeping on the truck… after all, They are opposition party and they oppose people’s desires… =)”

Active Facebook users in Myanmar have been expressing support for NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi.  Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Kawt Hmu where she hopes to represent the NLD in the parliament. DVB posted a video [my] of her arriving in Kawt Hmu where people have high expectations for the elections. There are also many comments which read “Good Luck Myanmar” on Facebook


This is a cross post from Global Voices.

For further information on the topic, please view the following publications:

The Role of Social Media in Promoting Democratization and Human Rights

Myanmar’s Post Election Landscape

Democracy in the Age of Social Media

The Myanmar Elections

You can also refer to the podcastA Web of Voices“, discussing how social media is changing the way societies connect and interact with their governments.

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