We support democracy at Ethos public relations, but sadly the elections in Burma yesterday (7 November) were neither free nor fair and were only designed to keep a repressive regime in power.
The two main parties which contested the polls are closely linked to the military and packed with their cronies. These parties benefited from significant advantages in the run up to the election such as access to state funding and the media. Only about a third of election candidates were from parties which oppose the junta, but with the ridiculous bureaucratic obstacles and prohibitive costs they had to overcome to even hold a meeting, this is hardly surprising.
In the run up to the elections, reports say that human rights abuses increased as the military clamped down on opposition – the number of political prisoners has doubled in the last three years, with longer sentences and harsher treatment for prisoners. In ethnic areas the number of military attacks has increased and elections in many areas with large ethnic minorities were cancelled because the military didn’t think the conditions were conducive to an election. This is thought to have disenfranchised 1.5 million people (over 5% of the electorate).
As if all this wasn’t enough, it is reported that many people were intimidated into voting for the parties which support the junta. Of course the scale of this abuse is hard to ascertain as foreign journalists were not allowed to cover the elections (openly) and independent observers were not allowed to monitor it.
However, as Burma Campaign UK points out, the elections could have been the fairest in the world but as the Burmese constitution enshrines repression it would have made little difference. All existing repressive laws will remain in place after the elections, which means no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly and no free media for example.
25% of the seats in the new Parliament are reserved for the military and as a majority of more than 75% is required for constitutional change they still have the casting vote. In fact, the military remain outside the control of Parliament and the courts, and have the ability to veto legislation on grounds of ‘security’, if they so decide.
Ethos public relations believes that the first step on the road to democracy in Burma would be to legalise the National League for Democracy (NLD) and release Aung San Suu Kyi, its leader. The military should then recognise the results of the 1990 election which the NLD won with an overwhelming landslide.
We welcome the international community’s rejection of yesterday’s election results and urge the UN to continue to pressurise the military junta to bring real reform, democracy and freedom to Burma.
Photo courtesy of Burma Campaign UK.
Posted at 9:48am on 8th November 2010
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