Myanmar army chief accuses government of ‘unacceptable mistakes’ ahead of election

Yangon (Reuters) – Myanmar’s army chief said on Tuesday the civilian government was making “unacceptable mistakes” in the run-up to a pivotal general election on Sunday, the second democratic vote since the end of strict military rule.

Issuing the second warning in as many days about potential bias in the vote, commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing told a local news outlet that the military was the “guardian” of the country and was watching preparations closely.

The rare interview by local news outlet Popular News Journal followed similar comments in a military statement on Monday that accused the election commission of “widespread violation of the laws and procedures of the pre-voting process”.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s election commission did not answer phone calls seeking comment, nor did a government spokesman.

Min Aung Hlaing said some opposition parties had complained about irregularities, citing voter lists riddled with errors with many people excluded. “There is no problem for normal mistakes. But some are unacceptable mistakes. They have a lot of time to do corrections,” he said.

“We told the election commission we want a free and fair election,” he said.

The election commission is controlled by the government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which came to power after a landslide election win in 2015 that ended half a century of military and military-backed rule.

But the army retains significant powers under the constitution including control of key ministries like Home Affairs. The military and civilian government have been at odds over various issues for months, including constitutional reform.

“I said in an interview with media in 2015…that we would accept the result by the election committee as long as it was free and fair. However, for now, we are in a situation where we need to be cautious,” Min Aung Hlaing said.