YANGON, MYANMAR — Myanmar’s junta and Russia have signed a memorandum on “cooperation in election activities”, state media reported Wednesday, as both governments plan for polls that critics say will be neither free nor fair.
Moscow is a close ally of the junta, providing arms and diplomatic support as Myanmar’s military struggles to crush armed opposition to its February 2021 coup.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing met President Vladimir Putin last year during one of several trips to Russia since seizing power. The Myanmar military has described Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as “justified”.
Officials from the junta-stacked election commission signed a “memorandum of understanding for cooperation in election activities” with their Russian counterparts during a recent visit to Russia, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
The delegation “also explored Russia’s election methods, conditions for conducting elections, campaign procedures”, the newspaper said.
The head of Russia’s election commission had also invited Myanmar to observe presidential elections scheduled for next year.
That vote is expected to prolong Putin’s rule until at least 2030, with many of his critics in jail or in exile.
Myanmar’s military has justified its putsch with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in 2020 elections won resoundingly by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
The junta will likely hold fresh polls in 2025, a senior official from a military-backed party told AFP earlier this month.
The United States has said any elections under the junta would be a “sham” and analysts say they would be targeted by the military’s opponents.
Russia has said it backs the generals’ plan for polls.
Suu Kyi’s NLD — which has trounced military-backed parties in every election it has fought — was dissolved earlier this year for failing to re-register under tough new military-drafted electoral rules.
The coup ended a 10-year democratic experiment and plunged the country into turmoil.
Fighting between the military and its opponents has displaced almost two million people, according to the United Nations.
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