On 1 April, more than six million Burmese are
eligible to go to the polls to elect less than 7% of the total
number of seats in the National Parliament.
While the by-elections have limited political
significance, they are important because they are being championed
as an indicator of progress by the international community after
the sham 2010 polls. Despite the hype, the bulk of laws and regulations
that still govern Burma’s electoral process are the same
as those applied in the widely-condemned 2010 elections.
In addition to the flawed election laws, the
other obstacle towards holding free and fair elections is the
regime’s handpicked Election Commission. The body, which
oversees all aspects of the electoral process, has repeatedly
failed to act in an impartial and independent manner.
Despite pledges that the by-elections will be
free and fair, regime authorities and the Election Commission
have repeatedly obstructed the NLD’s campaign activities.
Widespread irregularities, threats, harassment, vote-buying, and
censorship have marred the electoral process in the lead-up to
voting day. In addition, the regime disenfranchised over 200,000
voters in Kachin State.
The regime’s eleventh hour decision to
invite external election monitors is a public relations ploy that
is ‘too little, too late’ to ensure adequate, effective,
and independent monitoring of the electoral process.