Burma's Generals Steal an Election

Burmese voters punished the repressive military junta on Sunday by staying away from the polls or by voting for opposition parties; however, the military generals have chosen to rob an election victory in spite of the people's will.

On Wednesday, the Union Solidarity Development Party (UNDP), announced a landslide victory in Burma's first election in 20 years, claiming it had won more than 80 percent of the vote, although no vote tallies have been given and no official indication has been given of how many people actually went to the polls. Despite overwhelming pressure to force voters to the polls, anecdotal evidence indicates that no more than 60 percent of them actually voted.

Human rights groups and civil society organizations both inside Burma and outside have called the election, designed to ward off international sanctions, a sham.

The international community had already denounced the polls well ahead of the actual election on Nov.7, but what happened was more repressive and illegal than most observers could have imagined. And there is no recourse for justice under the military regime's laws.

In many constituencies contested by pro-democracy and ethnic political parties, the local populace demonstrated their contempt for the junta-backed USDP by casting their votes for any other candidate.

But although they may have won the majority of people's votes, the opposition candidates will never be allowed to take a seat in parliament, because the vote-count was manipulated beyond recognition by stuffing advance votes into the ballot boxes.

Spokespersons for the National Democratic Force (NDF), the Democratic Party (Myanmar) and the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP) have confirmed that the vote-counting was seriously flawed. Several said their members had witnessed ballot boxes full of advance votes being brought into polling stations for counting after the polls had closed.

Because there are no serial numbers on the ballot papers, no one knows how many ballots were printed by the Election Commission (EC). As a consequence, the EC officials were unhindered when adding as many "phantom" ballots to the count as they wanted.

And–perhaps most shocking of all – incidents were reported that at several polling stations the count was suspended when the election officials realized that opposition parties were leading by an unsurmountable margin. Both the NDF and AMRDP confirmed that this happened to their candidates at particular polling stations, with staff telling poll observers that the count was being suspended and that the EC would announce the results later.

Now the opposition parties must consider whether they should recognize the election results at all or belatedly join the pro-democracy boycott.

In fact, election experts and observers inside and outside the country always expected the military authorities in Burma to manipulate and cheat their way to victory at the polls on Sunday. They were prepared for that.

However, the obscenely overt and illegal policy that was employed across the board means that any goodwill that could have been extended to the generals in the wake of the election has evaporated.

This is reprinted with permission of The Irrawaddy, with which Asia Sentinel has a content-sharing agreement