11 November 2010

Myanmar elections dismissed by insiders and outsiders as 'sham'

Western governments have called Myanmar elections November 7, 2010, a "missed opportunity" according to press agencies AFP and Al Jazeera as Myanmar's military government set itself up to win the country's first elections in 20 years, with the ruling generals voting themselves back into power, amid opposition claims of intimidation and poll irregularities.

Image by: Pressenza Archivo
Children of Myanmar
While conditions for the vote have been widely criticised, some saw the elections as a small step towards democracy after almost five decades of military rule,

A young, educated Myanmar national, resident in Yangon, told Pressenza that: “Not participating in the election means allowing the military government to keep running. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) - the government party - had collected votes in advance in some areas. If a citizen voted on the November 7 and voted for other party, then that party has chance to win,” he insisted.

"The stance of those participating is that they want change. It may be a slow and small step, but they think they start to make progress and gradually, expect to have a better situation. They expect the current government will win the majority of seats, but they expect to have some democratic people in parliament.”

However, on the other side are those not participating.
"Stances of those who are not participating is that they believe there won't be any significant change in the government - feeling it will be more or less the same,” he added.
Opposition parties are confident of success in areas they did contest. But with 25 per cent of the seats in parliament reserved for military appointees regardless of the election outcome, the two main pro-military parties needed to win only 26 per cent of the remaining seats to secure the majority.

"Aung San Suu Kyi boycotted the vote,” continued our commentator. “She was eligible to vote. She also urged people not to vote. But some people from her party formed a new party and ran in the election. For the people who voted, they voted for that new party, the NDF (National Democratic Front)."

Aung San Suu Kyi is the Nobel Peace Prize winner who led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to power in 1990 but which results were never recognised by the ruling generals. She has been detained for most of the last 20 years.

Concerning the celebrity human rights campaigner, the young resident stated: "If she stays well behaved - actually, that is the term the government uses - her term [under house arrest] will be reduced to 50%. If it turns out to be like that, she will be freed on November 13. Everyone is watching this.
"I think she is still a big player, at least in the eyes of western world. However, for some of the younger generation in Myanmar, they are quite annoyed with NLD for not making any effort for change during the last 20 years. For example, during the 2007 revolution, they stayed behind and were quiet."

There was some optimism though, for instance Khin Maung Swe, an NDF leader, stated to the media that his party was optimistic about its prospects in those areas where it stood, because of queues forming at some polling stations. He said he thought people wanted to vote as they haven't voted for a long time.

More than 29 million people were eligible to vote but it is uncertain how many cast ballots.
For the young resident in Yangon: "Best outcome no matter how flawed? Well, it is hard to say. I think some democratic parties can win. But the majority of seats will be occupied by the USDP.

Despite the regime's unpopularity, its political proxy - the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), was expected to do well, not least helped by huge financial and campaigning advantages as well as the climate of fear. In many constituencies, the poll was a two-way battle between the USDP and the National Unity Party (NUP), which is the successor to former leader Ne Win's party but also closely aligned with the military.

Election Facts, (from Al Jazeera): 29 million eligible voters 40,000 polling stations 3,071 candidates from 37 political parties 82 independent candidates 494 seats in the two-chamber parliament 665 seats spread among 14 regional parliaments

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