Myanmar’s First National Post-Election Conference
“My political party lost in the elections but it is important that we still have a voice to improve future elections. The 2015 elections were the best held in Myanmar’s history, but there were still issues. I believe that the 2020 elections will be even better, and this conference is the first step in making that happen.” – Representative of the National Political Alliance Party
On February 29 and March 1, 2016, the Union Election Commission (UEC) hosted the first-ever National Post-Election Conference in Yangon. With support from the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES) and International IDEA, the UEC organized the conference to assess the administration of the historic 2015 elections and develop recommendations for future reform. More than 250 representatives of the UEC, civil society, political parties and media were in attendance during the two-day conference. Participants included a range of perspectives including women, youth, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities.
The national conference was the culmination of a three-month post-election review process that included 17 regional lessons-learned workshops facilitated by IFES in all 14 states and regions of Myanmar. Through the regional and national post-election reviews, stakeholders provided a comprehensive series of recommendations to consider for future electoral reform.
At the national conference, attendees participated in four panels on media, technology, the peace process, and public-opinion surveys, and in 20 breakout sessions focusing on critical areas of the electoral process, including polling operations, voter registration, voter education, stakeholder engagement, disability inclusion and gender equality. In the breakout sessions, participants shared their personal experiences, discussed recommendations from the regional workshops, reviewed the results of a UEC survey and developed consensus-based recommendations. To encourage national ownership of the conference, IFES trained 25 Myanmar civil society leaders as facilitators, and to assist their facilitation, IFES developed infographics that provided data on topics such as voter registration and voter education, as well as electoral maps that IFES co-produced with the Myanmar Information Management Unit (read more about these maps here).
The conference also incorporated several plenary sessions on the 2015 elections. In one session, UEC officials highlighted the commission’s initiatives to improve the electoral process for the 2015 elections, while another session was led by international and domestic election observers who presented preliminary findings and recommendations from their observation missions.
Throughout the conference, IFES’ staff interviewed attendees to gather their perspectives. Participants frequently expressed their desire to represent their group’s voice in the post-election review process, especially when representing traditionally marginalized groups. An attendee from a youth organization, for example, noted that by participating in this event, he was able to ensure the youth voice was incorporated into reform recommendations.
Other participants highlighted how the conference served as a learning opportunity, not only for the UEC, but also for their party or organization. “This type of conference is very good. We learned so much from the stakeholders that attended from across the country ... The knowledge I gained from this conference is very valuable and can help my party become more effective,” said a member of the Zo National Region Development Party.
The conference also provided a forum for organizations to engage with one another, possibly for future collaboration. A member of Peace and Justice Myanmar, an organization that observed the elections, noted the conference allowed her organization to meet members of other observer groups. “This conference was very good for getting us together to better prepare to work together on future elections,” she said.
IFES and International IDEA are now finalizing a report that will incorporate the recommendations from the national conference and 17 regional workshops. Based on the final report, the UEC will seek to revise its Five-Year Strategic Plan and adopt initiatives to improve electoral operations, the legal framework and inclusion and mainstreaming of traditionally marginalized groups in the electoral process.
IFES is supporting the UEC’s post-election review process under the “Support to the Electoral Process in Myanmar” program funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and under the “Elections and Political Processes Assistance” program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.