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1990 Myanmar general election

1990 Myanmar general election

← 1985 27 May 1990 2010 →

All 492 seats in the Constitutional Committee
247 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Aung San Suu Kyi U Tha Gyaw Khun Htun Oo
Seats won 392 10 23
Popular vote 7,943,622 2,805,559 222,821
Percentage 59.9% 21.2% 1.7%

General elections were held in Myanmar on 27 May 1990, the first multi-party elections since 1960, after which the country had been ruled by a military dictatorship. The elections were for a parliament-sized constitutional committee to draft a new constitution.[1][2]

The result was a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which won 392 of the 492 seats. However, the military junta refused to recognise the results and continued ruling the country until 2011. Voter turnout was 72.6%.[3]


The aftermath of the uprising in 1988 and the rise of leader Aung San Suu Kyi placed worldwide media attention on the political situation in Myanmar.[4] In September 1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC, the predecessor to the State Peace and Development Council), in its Declaration No. 1, had set four goals for the country: to maintain law and order, improve transportation, improve the humanitarian situation and hold multi-party elections.[5] It also stated that the military would not "cling to power for long".[5] Aung San Suu Kyi had been calling for dialogue between the SLORC and the citizens of Myanmar.[6] In May 1989, the government reopened universities that had been involved in the uprising the previous year. At the same time, the government conceded and a date for the election was set for May 1990 with political parties registering for the election immediately.[7] The date, 27 May 1990, was chosen for its auspicious nature surrounding the number 9; 27 May (2+7=9), and on the fourth Sunday of the fifth month (4+5=9).[8]

Parties and campaigning

93 political parties presented a total of 2,297 candidates to contest the 492 constituencies, with at least 2 candidates per constituency.[9] Of the 93, 19 different ethnic parties also took part in the election.[10] The National Unity Party (NUP) was favoured by the military to win.[9] Aung San Suu Kyi, a popular opposition figure, ran against General Ne Win's largely disliked associate, Sein Lein.[11] The symbol for the NUP was a sheaf of rice stalks, and the NLD's was a straw hat.[12] Some people took to wearing rice stalks around their bare feet, a grave insult in a Buddhist country.[12]

Although election campaigning was underway, the government placed restrictions on opposition politicians. U Aung Gyi, a former member of the junta, was expected to lead a weak coalition that would not challenge the interests of the army. He was imprisoned in 1988 for his outspoken views against the regime, but criticised Aung San Suu Kyi for being a "radical manipulated by Communists".[12] Former Prime Minister U Nu remained under house arrest during the election process,[13] as was Aung San Suu Kyi since 20 July 1989, without trial.[14] Throughout campaigning, the government kept its restrictions on public gatherings and political meetings, and required all political literature to be approved by the SLORC prior to publication; however political parties defied the ruling.[15] Two days before the election, visas for 61 foreign journalists were unexpectedly issued to cover the vote.[9]


The National League for Democracy (NLD) won 392 of the 492 contested seats, which would have given it an overwhelming majority in the constitutional committee had it convened. The National Unity Party (NUP), which was favoured by the incumbent military junta, came second in terms of vote share with 21% of the vote and fourth in terms of seats, with only 10 seats in the chamber.[9] The remaining seats in the chamber were won by a mixture of ethnic parties and independents.

National League for Democracy7,934,62259.87392
National Unity Party2,805,55921.1710
Peasants National Unity Organisation (NUP)300,9062.270
League for Democracy and Peace243,0231.830
Shan Nationalities League for Democracy222,8211.6823
Union National Democracy Party196,5181.481
Arakan League for Democracy160,7831.2111
Workers Unity Organisation (NUP)153,8541.160
Mon National Democratic Front138,5721.055
National Democratic Party for Human Rights128,1290.974
Party for National Democracy72,6720.553
Youth Unity Organisation (NUP)71,5170.540
Democracy Party63,8150.481
Students and Youth League for Mayyu Development57,0880.430
Chin National League for Democracy51,1870.393
Democratic Front for National Reconstruction38,2030.290
Union Pa-O National Organisation35,3890.273
Arakan People's Democratic Front29,1150.220
Ta'ang National League for Democracy23,9750.182
Union Danu League for Democracy Party23,1450.171
Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organisation22,7780.171
Zomi National Congress18,6380.142
Democratic Organisation for Kayan National Unity16,5530.122
Union Karen League16,5180.120
Lahu National Development Party15,7960.121
Union of Burma (Main) AFPFL14,4430.110
Kachin State National Congress for Democracy13,9940.113
Kayah State Nationalities League for Democracy11,6640.092
Graduates and Old Students Democratic Association10,6340.081
Naga Hills Regional Progressive Party10,6120.082
Kamans National League for Democracy10,5960.081
Kachin State National Democratic Party10,0690.080
Lisu National Solidarity9,3970.070
United Nationalities League for Democracy9,3890.071
Kokang Democracy and Unity Party9,0850.070
Democratic Party for New Society9,0310.070
Arakan National Unity Organisation8,6630.070
Democratic League for the National Races of Shan State7,2100.050
Karen National Congress for Democracy6,7760.050
Karen State National Organisation6,4010.051
Kachin National Congress6,3040.050
Shan State Kokang Democratic Party6,1950.051
League of Peasants' Unions6,0370.050
Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League6,0290.050
Mara People's Party5,8730.041
Inn-Tha National Organisation5,7900.040
Farmer, Gadu Ganan and Shan National Unity Democratic Headquarters5,2570.040
Wa National Development Party4,6760.040
Democratic Human Rights Party4,2460.030
People's Democratic Party4,2420.030
National Peace and Democracy Party3,9880.030
Unity and Development Party3,6560.030
Free People League of Burma2,9590.020
Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (Original)2,8820.020
Peasants' Development Party2,8470.020
People's Volunteer Organisation2,6960.020
Union for the Improvement of Burmese Women2,4950.020
Patriotic Old Comrades' League2,4350.021
All Burma National Progressive Democracy Party2,2490.020
League of Democratic Allies2,1140.020
Arakan Nationalities Democracy Party2,0330.020
Patriotic Democratic Youth Front1,9630.010
Rakhine National Humanitarian Development Organisation1,9420.010
People's Peasants Union1,8940.010
National Ethnic Reformation Party1,7820.010
Democratic Allies' League1,6190.010
Indigenous Collaboration Party1,2410.010
Might of New Generation Youth Front1,2240.010
Shan State Kachin Democratic Party1,1970.010
United League of Democratic Parties1,1740.010
United Trade Union Congress1,1280.010
National Progressive Youth of Myanmar Naing Ngan1,0130.010
National Peace Party9540.010
Leading Strength of National Realism Centre9280.010
Youths' Solidarity Front8600.010
Union People's Future and Democracy Party8480.010
All Burma Democratic People's Power Organisation7480.010
Democratic People's League7470.010
All Burma United Youths Organisation6400.000
Patriotic Youth Organisation6090.000
Union of Burma Unity Democracy League6040.000
United National Congress5750.000
Amyothar Party5230.000
Anti-Communist, Anti-Socialist, Anti-Totalitarian Free Democracy League5110.000
Union of Burma Democratic Front4140.000
Union of Kachin Youth4010.000
Democratic Labour Party3930.000
Shan National Democratic Development Party3660.000
National Politics Front (Youth)3540.000
Burma United Democratic Party2690.000
People's Power Party1580.000
Union Stability Party860.000
People's Pioneer Party700.000
Valid votes13,253,60687.70
Invalid/blank votes1,858,91812.30
Total votes15,112,524100.00
Registered voters/turnout20,818,31372.59
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma


Initially, the SLORC said it would honour the results of the election. However, the government, surprised at the outcome, later annulled the results and many candidates were arrested or went into exile.[16] Some later formed the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.[17] Two months after the election, the SLORC issued Order 1/90, explaining it had legitimacy to rule as it was recognised by the United Nations and individual countries, as well as ensuring it would prevent the break-up of the Union.[18] It required all parties to recognise and accept the Order, and many opposition figures who refused were arrested.[18]


  1. ^ Aung-Thwin, Michael; Aung-Thwin, Maitrii (2012). A History of Myanmar Since Ancient Times: Traditions and Transformations. London: Reaktion Books. pp. 266–267. ISBN 9781861899392.
  2. ^ Steinberg, David (2010). Burma/Myanmar - What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press. pp. 90–93. ISBN 978-0-19-539067-4.
  3. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p611 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
  4. ^ Reid, Robert; Grosberg, Michael (2005). Myanmar (Burma). Lonely Planet. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-74059-695-4.
  5. ^ a b Guyot, James F (1991). "Myanmar in 1990: The unconsummated election". Asian Survey. 31 (2). University of California Press: 205–211. doi:10.2307/2644932. JSTOR 2644932.
  6. ^ Ling, Bettina (1999). Aung San Suu Kyi: standing up for democracy in Burma. Feminist Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-55861-196-2.
  7. ^ Ling, 1999, p. 63.
  8. ^ Perry, Peter John (2007). Myanmar (Burma) since 1962: the failure of development. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-7546-4534-4.
  9. ^ a b c d Eur (2002). Far East and Australasia 2003. Routledge. p. 863. ISBN 978-1-85743-133-9.
  10. ^ Steinberg, David I (2001). Burma, the state of Myanmar. Georgetown University Press. pp. 46. ISBN 978-0-87840-893-1.
  11. ^ Ludwig, Arnold M (2004). King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership. University Press of Kentucky. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-8131-9068-6.
  12. ^ a b c Erlanger, Steven (1 April 1990). "The Burmese Are Going to Vote; the Army Tells Them To". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Erlanger, Steven (27 May 1990). "Burmese Vote Today, or Do They?". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Silverstein, Josef (1996). "The Idea of Freedom in Burma and the Political Thought of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi" (PDF). Pacific Affairs. 69 (2): 211–228. doi:10.2307/2760725. JSTOR 2760725.
  15. ^ Ling, 1999, p. 64.
  16. ^ To stand and be counted: the suppression of Burma's members of Parliament (Bangkok: All Burma Students' Democratic Front, Documentation and Research Centre, 1998)
  17. ^ Gravers, Mikael (1999). Nationalism as political paranoia in Burma: an essay on the historical practice of power (2 ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7007-0981-6.
  18. ^ a b Eur, 2003, p. 864.
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1990 Myanmar general election
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