The Nov 8 election is for state assemblies as well as Parliament's 224-seat Upper House and 440- seat Lower House. At all levels, 25 per cent of seats are allocated to military-appointed members.
The ethnic vote
Of 91 political parties registered to take part in the Nov 8 election, 59 are based on ethnicity.
There are 135 listed ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Burman (Bamar) group is the largest and holds power through the military and the government.
Myanmar is divided into seven states named after seven ethnic nationalities (see right), and seven regions (formerly called divisions), which are largely inhabited by the Bamar.
Minority ethnic nationalities live mainly in the resource-rich border areas and hills. More than a dozen have their own armed groups or militias.
The seven largest minorities are:
Chin (1.5 million)
Kachin (1-1.5 million)
Karen or Kayin (seven million)
Karenni or Kayah (300,000)
Mon (eight million)
Rakhine (two million)
Shan (four to six million)
In the last general election, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won 884 seats, largely due to a boycott by the National League for Democracy. Ethnic parties won 180 seats.
Sources: Transnational Institute, Oxford Burma Alliance