Image for representation
Image for representation
AFP

Voting began on Sunday in Myanmar's general elections with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy (NLD) expected to retain power.

This is the second democratic vote of the southeast Asian country, since the end of five decades of military rule, Al Jazeera reported.

More than 37 million people are eligible to vote in the elections.

Voting comes amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar, which has recorded more than 60,000 infections and 1,390 deaths since mid-August.

The opposition parties have called for an election delay over the coronavirus cases, but the governing NLD and the Union Election Commission insisted on forging ahead.

In South Okkalapa township in eastern Yangon hundreds of voters, wearing masks, face shields and gloves, lined up outside a polling booth at dawn to cast their ballots.

Voters in the area were choosing between the NLD's Thet Naing Soe and prominent democracy activist Ko Ko Gyi, who has criticised the governing party for failing to amend the army-drafted constitution, which gives the military 25 per cent of seats in parliament.

South Okkalapa resident Aung Myo said he voted for Suu Kyi's NLD. "She is very strong, strong for the truth and our country," he told Al Jazeera.

Su Moe Thant, a 23-year-old student, said she was "excited" to cast her ballot.

"I have some friends who don't want to vote, they don't like the current political system and don't want to choose and go for no vote. I really don't like that. it's a democracy you can choose whatever you want. You can vote independent but it's important to vote," she said.

Human rights Watch has deemed this election as "fundamentally flawed". The United States-based group last month denounced the exclusion of voters from the ethnic Rohingya minority, the criminal prosecution of government critics, as well as unequal party access to state media.

Polls were cancelled in ethnic minority areas citing concerns over security amid fighting between the military and ethnic rebel groups.

Worst-affected by the move was Rakhine state, where the military is battling the Arakan Army, a popular rebel group seeking greater autonomy for the Rakhine people.

The cancellation of the vote tilts the electoral field decisively in the NLD's favour in Rakhine, a state where it is arguably the least popular, and analysts have warned that the conflict there may intensify in the wake of the election.

The western state is also home to the persecuted Rohingya minority, who Myanmar views as immigrants from Bangladesh, and were barred from registering to vote.

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