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Alternative Asean Network on Burma
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BURMA’S BY-ELECTIONS: STILL SHORT OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

 
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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.