Devastating landslides and monsoonal flooding have affected over 1.1 million people in Burma, according to the United Nations on 11 August. With 12 of the 14 regions in the country facing daunting cleanup efforts, and tens of thousands of people displaced, the upcoming general election has been pushed to the back of the national list of priorities. Or has it?
In contrast to the junta’s response to Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the current government requested international aid to help speed up reparations. But with the deadline for candidate nominations already extended until 14 August, some have suggested the election itself should be postponed to give the country time to focus on rebuilding.
Speaking on this week’s episode of DVB Debate, Kyaw Myint from the Rakhine National Party suggested going ahead with the historic election would be impractical.
“It will be impossible to resettle all the displaced people within the next three months,” he said.
“I think when people are suffering that much, it would not be wise to go ahead with the election on that set date.”
Noe Htan Kup, the ethnic affairs minister for Sagaing Division, agreed that people are not interested in the elections, with the threat of more floods to come.
“It would reflect badly on us if we were to talk party politics now. If weather experts have predicted correctly and there are more floods to come in September or October, then we must postpone the elections,” he said.
Aye Aye Myint from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) offered a different perspective, saying that now is the perfect time for individual candidates and parties to engage with their communities.
“It is an opportunity for the parties and candidates to reach out to the people. It is the best time to visit people and give them help. But people are in a precarious position; food is scarce. For everybody, the most important thing is survival. So it wouldn’t really be fair if we prioritised our election victory over people’s wellbeing,” she said.
With the 8 November election heralded by many observers as one of the final milestones on Burma’s path to democracy, the prospect of a delayed election gives rise to many more questions.
DVB wants to hear from you, our readers, about whether you think the election should be postponed to give communities time to rebuild their homes and infrastructure. Or, can Burma wait no longer for the people to decide?
Give your answers below, and feel free to expand upon your answer in the comments section below.