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VOA Covers Historic Myanmar Elections, Social Media Surges 7 Million

NLD supporters attend rally in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 5, 2015. (Photo: Z. Aung / VOA)
NLD supporters attend rally in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 5, 2015. (Photo: Z. Aung / VOA)

In Myanmar’s historic general elections November 8, VOA’s Burmese Service watched the voting process through its reporters on the ground in Yangon and elsewhere. As a result of its coverage, VOA Burmese social media reach surged to 7.4 million, and its engagement rate hit 1.4 million, November 4th-10th.

The elections in Myanmar are the first in the country since a quasi-civilian government was introduced in 2011. The opposition National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has won a majority of seats in parliament, and is already receiving congratulations from world leaders and the country’s president. The NLD crossed the 329 seat threshold of seats needed to govern the country’s parliament and choose its next president. A spokesman for the NLD, Win Htein, told VOA Burmese that the party has enough seats to nominate two vice presidents, having a chance to elect the new president. “Once the NLD is able to form a new government, national reconciliation, changes in the constitution and peaceful coexistence with ethnic minorities will be top priorities as well as the issue of political prisoners,” he said.

VOA Burmese began its Myanmar election coverage on September 27th and is running expanded radio and television programming until December 4th. Daily television shows have added 30 minutes of coverage to one hour, and radio expanded programming by 30-minutes to three hours. VOA’s coverage has included political profiles, voter education programs, and expert interviews in everyday coverage.

Service Chief Than Lwin Htun explained that this was “the first general election that VOA was able to cover on the ground since VOA’s Burmese Bureau was established in 2012. It was the first time European and Western monitors have been allowed as well.”

Votes have been trickling in slowly from across Myanmar. “Clearly there were defects. Not everything was perfect,” International Republican Institute President Mark Green told VOA Burmese Yangon Bureau Chief Khin Soe Win. But the goal for observers was for relatively free and fair elections, and the government has promised the results will be honored.

November 13th is a special day for the NLD. It is the day that Aun San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010, and now, the day that her opposition party’s parliamentary majority is confirmed.

VOA Burmese is one of the most popular international broadcasters in Burma, reaching its target audience on radio (via shortwave and AM), TV, the Internet, and mobile, with a mixture of regional, international, and U.S. news. VOA Burmese reaches over 3 million adults weekly. 9 out of 10 weekly audience members find its news and information trustworthy and feel that their understanding of current events has increased thanks to VOA Burmese.