--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 6
EDITORIAL: Unfair elections

On Sunday, Myanmar (Burma) held its first national elections in 20 years.

The country's military government led by Senior Gen. Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, touted the elections as the final step in a power transfer to a civilian government.

But there was little enthusiasm about the poll among the impoverished population of Myanmar, according to media reports.

Under a Constitution established in 2008, the military appoints a quarter of the members of both houses of the parliament. The remaining seats are contested in elections.

The parties supporting the ruling junta fielded candidates in almost all electoral districts. Candidates who were officers in uniform until recently were expected to prevail thanks to their financial muscle and access to patronage resources.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, was dissolved by the military regime after it decided to boycott Sunday's elections.

A splinter group from her party formed the National Democratic Force (NDF), but it was too little, too late. The NDF could not field many candidates and it had no blessing from Suu Kyi.

While the parties supporting the ruling junta mounted vigorous election campaigns, the pro-democracy groups didn't even have enough money to put up campaign posters.

With the election results completely predictable, the cynical mood among voters was not surprising.

These were elections without legitimacy in the first place.

The military junta unilaterally nullified the results of the general elections in 1990, which had given the NLD 80 percent of parliamentary seats.

The junta unjustly detained Suu Kyi and her allies and kept them under house arrest.


There is no fairness in the way the elections were administered.

The junta required a high deposit for registering a candidate, making it difficult for the less-affluent opposition to run.

It also barred voting in a number of districts where ethnic minority groups have resisted military rule.

The government has even refused to accept foreign poll monitors and barred foreign journalists from entering the country to cover the elections.

The military rulers apparently learned a lesson from their "mistake" of allowing foreign reporters to cover the last general election on polling day.

There was little, if any, transparency in the election process on Sunday.

Following the elections, a newly elected parliament will choose the president and form the Cabinet.

That will complete the political process the junta describes as the country's "road map to democracy."

It can be said the elections were designed solely to give a semblance of legitimacy to military control of the government and the parliament.

Since an amendment to the Myanmar Constitution requires a three-quarters majority in the parliament, the elections merely perpetuate the military dictatorship.

Than Shwe, Myanmar's paramount leader known for his aversion to foreign travel, visited India in July and China in September.

In meetings with these countries' leaders, he asked for their support for the elections.

The biggest obstacle to a fair election called for both in and outside the nation is China, which has its sights on resources in Myanmar and a supply route to the Indian Ocean.

India, which is scrambling to build closer ties with Myanmar's military junta in response to China's moves, has expressed no critical view of the polls.

The governments of these and some other countries, including Thailand, which is importing natural gas from Myanmar, are showing little sympathy for the people of a neighboring country who have been suffering badly from often brutal violations of human rights.

The Japanese government has been arguing that any election in Myanmar from which Suu Kyi is barred cannot be considered to be free or fair.

Since Sunday's elections didn't meet this condition, Tokyo must take a tough stance toward Myanmar's new government.

by kiyoshimat | 2010-11-09 05:18 | 英字新聞

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