High Risk of Electoral Violence in Myanmar

Policy brief

Nilsen, Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) High Risk of Electoral Violence in Myanmar, PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.

With reference to studies of electoral violence in India, we assess the risk of violence in the run-up to Myanmar's 2015 general elections – the litmus test for the country's democratic transition.

This policy brief explains Myanmar's increasing problems of religious and ethnic violence and anti-Muslim agitation as aspects of competition for political power. Underlying distrust between religious and ethnic groups is exploited by powerful political actors to stir up violence for the purpose of winning swing votes. There is therefore good reason to alert policy makers and local communities to the risk of renewed violence in connection with the elections in 2015, particularly if groups within the Myanmar Army involve themselves in the struggle for political power. There is an added risk of violence if ethnic-minority parties fail to win political representation at the Union level. Ethnic militias could then initiate armed confrontation with the government. The brief concludes by suggesting measures to reduce the risk of renewed violence before, during and after the elections.

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