Through its long-term election observation mission of the 2015 elections, The Carter Center is supporting Myanmar's transition from military rule to democracy.
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is emerging from decades of rule by a military junta. The November 2015 elections saw widespread participation and have the potential to serve as a major milestone in Myanmar's transition to democratic rule.
The Center has had a presence in Myanmar since 2013 and began its long-term observation work in December 2014. Its formal electoral observation mission was launched in August 2014 following the setting of the election date. Three teams of long-term observers deployed across the country, and a core team of experts worked out of Yangon. They were joined in November 2015 by a contingent of more than 50 short-term of observers. The Center kept a small team in Myanmar into 2016 to monitor post-election activities.
Overall, the elections were held in an orderly and peaceful manner. On election day, voters turned out in large numbers to cast their ballots, and thousands of civil society observers watched the process throughout the country. Carter Center observers visited 245 polling stations across the nation and found the polling and counting process to be generally well-conducted.
However, Myanmar's transition from authoritarian rule to democracy is incomplete. The constitutional framework for elections is heavily flawed, limiting the fundamental democratic nature of the elected bodies and undermining public confidence in work of the election administration. Despite improvements over the past few years, there are still constraints on freedom of speech and assembly, including pressure on journalists and some limitations on peaceful protest. Importantly, the government has made progress in ending the armed conflicts that persist in several areas, but violence and its accompanying impact on human rights continue. In addition, some of the people of Myanmar were excluded from the electoral process, in violation of their fundamental political rights.
Despite the flaws, Myanmar appears to be on a positive trajectory toward a peaceful, democratic transition as a result of these elections. The Center's mission is ongoing, and observers will continue to assess these processes, with additional reports to be issued.
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Size: 676,578 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 33 percent
Life expectancy: 66 years
Ethnic groups: Burman, Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Chinese, Indian, Mon, other
Languages: Burmese (official)
Religions: Buddhist, Christian (Baptist, Roman Catholic), Muslim, Animist, other
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2016