What is the role of political representation by ethnic parties in a multi-ethnic state? What is the role of women as part of a society-wide transformation?

The Myanmar case offers valuable insights about democratization in South-East Asia for a number of reasons:

  • Political representation is a long-standing ethnic grievance at the centre of Myanmar’s intrastate conflicts with non-Bamar ethnicities making up one-third of the total population.
  • Myanmar’s democratic opening has created new but constrained opportunities for political representation of women. With 12% of women in parliament, Myanmar ranks low in female political representation in Asia.
  • The 2015 election demonstrated that the plurality of parties and weak institutionalization mean that they face a high risk of electoral defeat and under-representation of ethnic nationalities.

The challenges of weak representation for marginalized groups raise questions about the factors explaining the 2015 election results and about their strategies for the upcoming election in 2020.

The talk features Canadian scholars engaged in research on political and development issues in Myanmar, providing insights about their findings and views on the upcoming electoral period in Myanmar.

Dr. Netina Tan – Associate Professor of Political Science in McMaster University, Canada, focuses on authoritarian resilience and the political representation of women and ethnic minorities in the socio-political developments in East and Southeast Asia.

Dr. Kai Ostwald – Director, Centre for Southeast Asia Research and Assistant Professor at Department of Political Science and the School of Public Policy & Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, specializes in comparative politics, particularly the political economy of development and ethnic politics.

Background reading for the meeting

Tan, Netina, and Cassandra Preece. 2020. “Electoral System, Ethnic Parties, and Party System Stability in Myanmar.” The European Journal of Development Research 32 (2): 431–56. SharedIt: https://rdcu.be/b3pcR

Tan, Netina, Paul Minoletti, Elin Bjarnegård, and Aye Lei Tun. 2020. “Party Building and Candidate Selection: Intraparty Politics and Promoting Gender Equality in Myanmar.” Working Paper 1. Yangon, Myanmar: EMRef and IDRC. https://emref.org/sites/emref.org/fil…

Ostwald, Kai and Constance Courtin. 2020. Malapportionment in Myanmar’s Elections: A Slumbering Menace. https://www.researchgate.net/publicat…