ISSN 2330-717X

Burma: By-Elections Give Impression Of Charade – OpEd

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By Zin Linn

Burma’s Foreign Affairs Wunna Maung Lwin made clarification on the trip of observers to constituencies in townships of regions and states where by-elections are to be held on 1 April 2012, at the hall of the Foreign Ministry on Thursday morning, the New Light of Myanmar said today.

Present at the meeting were departmental heads, local and foreign-based diplomats, invited representatives of the UN headquarters, representatives of the ASEAN Chairman, ASEAN countries, partner countries and European Union and correspondents of foreign countries, the paper said.

According to Foreign Minister, the elections are ensuring to be free, fair and transparent. The imminent by-elections are to be held for 40 seats for lower house, 6 seats for upper house and 2 seats for Region Parliament, totaling 48 seats. However, by-elections for three lower house constituencies in Kachin State will not take place on 1st April due to security reasons.

The poll-observers are free to go to any constituency and witness the process of elections including making documentaries and news reporting apart from inside the polling station, the FM clarified.

At one point he highlighted some provisions of the Election Law concerning the polling station. He explained that ‘Election Rule 39 (A)’ guarantees the secret voting for all eligible voters. In accordance with ‘Rule No. 48’ the responsible officer of polling station must ensure the rule of law at the polling station, that the election is free and fair and the systematic entry into the polling station.

“From the beginning of voting until the end, only authorized persons, such as members of the polling station, eligible voters, police or security personnel assigned by the local election commission, members of the commission and sub-commission, candidates of respective constituency, their representatives and their assigned assistants are permitted to enter the polling station,” FM Wunna Maung Lwin said.

Apart from those approved persons, no one else is allowed to enter the polling station, he said. Maung Lwin also said that observers have to keep in mind the provisions of Chapter 13 of the Election Law.

“Article 60 prohibits disturbance to voters who come to the polling station to cast his or her vote. Article 61 prohibits on the day of election, canvassing for votes or discouraging people not to vote within the radius of 500 yards of the polling station. Article 63 prohibits the entry into the polling station without the permission of the polling station officer. Article 64 also prohibits making fraudulent accusations against the election process,” Maung Lwin underlined the forbidden clauses.

According to the election law, observers can watch the whole process of voting from outside of the voting station. The controversial law says that one can witness the process of counting ballots just from outside of the polling station. Observers can meet political parties, their representatives and public, but such act must not interfere with their voting.

In conclusion, he told the observers to respect the sovereignty of the nation and fully abide by the rules and regulations of the Election Commission and authorities of the polling station.

Meanwhile, as the election will be held on coming Sunday, the irregularities made by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) are increasing day after day. In many rural areas, the local administrative committee members who were appointed by the ruling party have forced the people to cast their votes for the USDP in many ways. In several constituencies, they influence the voters by borrowing money without interest so as to buy their votes.

In numerous constituencies, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi has complained of widespread inaccuracy in official voter-lists, which lost hundreds of names and put the same name repeatedly. The worst is that the authorities put the names of dead people in the lists.

On Friday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in a news conference that campaign irregularities threatened the neutrality and fairness of the Sunday by-elections.

“I don’t think we can consider it a genuine free and fair election if we consider what has been happening here over the last few months,” the democracy icon told a news conference on Friday, ahead of Sunday’s by-elections, according to AFP News Agency.

“It is the rising political awareness of our people that we regard as our greatest triumph,” she said.

“We don’t at all regret having taken part,” Suu Kyi added – as reported by AFP.

Burmese government agreed to give permission for two poll observers each from the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, South Korea, the United Nations as well as ASEAN members. Every country allows three journalists to cover the election news.

As a matter of fact, the invitations for international poll observers came too late and with too many limits. It looks like artificial since the regime has intended for lifting of sanctions imposed by the Western democracies.

Unless the government itself abides by its existing laws, the Sunday by-elections may damage the reform plans supported by President Thein Sein.

Asian Correspondent

Asian Correspondent is an English-language liberal news, blogs and commentary online newspaper serving all of the Asia-Pacific region. The website covers asian business, politics, technology, the environment, education, new media and Asia society issues.

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