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31-03-12, 03:39 PM #1
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Suu Kyi says poll will not be fair
Suu Kyi says poll will not be fair
Democracy icon claims violence, irregularities
Published: 31/03/2012 at 01:37 AMOnline news: Asia
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Friday that by-elections to be held this weekend would not be completely democratic, sounding a note of caution over her bid for a seat in parliament.
"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 Nobel laureate told a news conference ahead of Sunday's vote.
"While we recognise that even in well-established democracies there are irregularities and misdemeanors when elections take place, what has been happening in this country (is) really beyond what is acceptable for a democratic election," she added.
"Still we are determined to go forward because this is what our people want."
See also: Watchdogs ready to document vote
The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader said the polls were boosting people's interest in politics in the country after decades of outright military rule ended last year.
"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."
The polls mark the first time that Suu Kyi -- who has spent most of the past 22 years as a political prisoner -- is standing for a seat in parliament, and she has drawn huge crowds on the campaign trail.
Experts believe the regime wants the pro-democracy leader to win a seat in a parliament dominated by the army and its political allies to burnish its reform credentials and encourage an end to Western sanctions.
But Suu Kyi said that she had no plan to accept a position as minister in the army-backed government if offered a role because under the constitution she would be required to give up her seat in parliament.
"I have no intention of leaving the parliament to which I have tried so hard to get into," she said.
The NLD won a landslide election victory in 1990 but was never allowed to take office.
A 2010 election that swept the army's political allies to power was marred by complaints of cheating and intimidation, as well as the exclusion of Suu Kyi, who was released from years of house arrest just days later.
The NLD has also complained about what it described as "unfair treatment" by the authorities ahead of Sunday's vote.
The party said that people in one village were forced by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to attend one of its meetings.
It said that in the constituency of Kawhmu near Yangon, where Suu Kyi is standing, the names of hundreds of dead people were found on the electoral roll, while more than 1,300 valid voters were left off.
President Thein Sein acknowledged in a recent speech that there had been "unnecessary errors" in ballot lists, but said that the authorities were trying to ensure the by-elections will be free and fair.
Since taking office a year ago, Thein Sein has carried out reforms including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, easing media restrictions and welcoming the opposition back into mainstream politics.
Unlike in 2010, the government has invited foreign observers and journalists to witness a vote seen as a major test of its reform credentials.
The number of seats at stake in Sunday's vote is not enough to threaten the ruling party's overwhelming majority in parliament but Suu Kyi described the vote as "a step towards step one in democracy".
She added: "Our opinion is that once we get into parliament we will be able to work towards genuine democratisation."
A gruelling schedule of rallies and speeches has taken its toll on the health of the opposition leader, who cancelled campaigning this week after she fell ill and was put on a drip during a trip to the south.
"I've not been well recently and I'm feeling a little delicate so any difficult questions and I shall faint straight away," she joked to the hundreds of journalists and diplomats who crammed into the grounds of the crumbling mansion where she was locked up by the junta until 2010.
31-03-12, 03:43 PM #2
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Re: Suu Kyi says poll will not be fair
Close eye on Myanmar polls
Published: 30/03/2012 at 07:03 PMOnline news: Local News
International and local observers are gearing up to monitor Sunday's byelections in Myanmar, where political canvassers were busy soliciting support in advance polling that began on Friday.
Convoys of political party vehicles on Friday were zigzagging around six constituencies in Yangon Division where advance voting is taking place for three days.
Residents seemed cheerful, waving and chanting the name of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in response to the motorcades.
A total of 157 candidates from 17 parties are contesting seats in the Hluttaw (Parliament). Of these, 129 will contest 37 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House), while 22 will compete for six seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House). Six candidates will compete for two seats in regional or state parliaments, according to the Election Commission.
Local observers in this poll are receiving better treatment from the government than in the 2010 elections, said Tin Maung Htwe, a local officer who trained with the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) and is affiliated with the 88 Generation Group.
"Thanks to the post-Nargis humanitarian efforts, groups of local volunteers from various divisions have emerged," he explained, referring to the 2008 cyclone. "We hooked up with them and got them work, though in a low-profile and informal manner, to observe the 2010 elections, so for the Sunday elections, there will be over 2,000 local observers providing information for the centre team in Yangon."
Local observers under the banner of Myanmar Election Observers were also being allowed to field observers on the ground in 40 of the 45 constituencies, he said.
The complaints coming in from various constutuencies are typical of what one might hear in any country during an election campaign. The Democratic Party (Myanmar) said the local government in Mingalartaungnyunt township had intentionally obstructed its activities by choosing this month to pave the road in front of the party headquarters. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) complained its signposts were stripped, National League for Democracy (NLD) candidates in Nay Pyi Taw said people threw stones at them, while citizens in Mandalay's Kyaint Pa Down township said it was hard to check the voters' lists at booths which were located in a military compound.
The National Democratic Force (NDF), meanwhile, has complained that local media were biased in favour of the NLD, the party led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Kallayana Vipattpumiprates, the Thai embassy charge d'affaires, told the Bangkok Post that he and his Indonesian colleague from Yangon were meeting in Mandalay on Friday and would stay on until Monday.
Mr Kallayana said the Myanmar Foreign Ministry had given international observers all necessary information and freedom to choose where they wanted to go to see how the people cast their votes.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said he welcomed Myanmar's initiative in inviting its Asean neighbours, dialogue partners and international organisations to observe the polling.
"We are pleased to lend our support to this very significant political process, in which we hope, will contribute further to national reconciliation. We are encouraged by the preparations that we have seen and the efforts done to advance and facilitate this democratic exercise," Mr Surin said in a statement from Phnom Penh.
The Asean Secretariat received an invitation to observe the election just a month after he visited Myanmar President Thein Sein and suggested that the vote be open to Asean observers, and potentially Asean media.
More than 150 international observers from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, India and Asean will be monitoring the casting of ballots
Three Thai delegates from the Parliamentary Office have already returned after one night in Yangon, leaving behind only media from Radio Parliament, NBT and MCOT. They will be observing the Sunday elections at Kawmu, 60 kilometres west of Yangon city; Mayangone, 15 km east of downtown Yangon; and Mingalartaungnyunt, five kilometres from the city.
Five observers from Canberra are going to the Irrawaddy plains, and one embassy-based official observer is going to the Magway region, according to the Australian Embassy.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma), and Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) jointly issued a statement calling for reforms in the lead-up to the byelections, saying the process was already marred by irregularities and censorship.
31-03-12, 04:59 PM #3
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