10/27/2010, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Hopes for a new beginning after "rigged" elections

by Tint Swe
Tint Swe, a Burmese government representative in exile, speaks to AsiaNews about the vote on November 7. A rigged vote whose outcome is already known. But with the prospect of searching for new agreement between populations, political and ethnic groups, with the future government.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - It is not important to decide whether to boycott the November 7elections in Myanmar, but after the vote solutions to the problems of the country must be found. This is the conviction of Tint Swe, Information Minister of the exiled National Coalition Government Union of Burma (NCGUB), who speaks to AsiaNews about the current situation and future prospects of the country.

The general elections around the world in this year comprise of 30 in Europe, 26 in Africa, 19 in Asia, 8 in South America, 1 in New Zealand, and 1 in Australia. In the Electoral Calendar of Maximiliano Herrera Human Rights Links there are total of 509 various forms of elections in a range of countries in 2010 and the one in Burma is of serial number 461.

The legitimacy is what the Burmese military junta is desperately trying to seek by holding an election. Though legality can only be achieved if proved credible and acceptable, the election process is overpoweringly manipulated by the military regime. The legitimacy can somewhat be provided by the independent election monitoring and free media. Accordingly many elections elsewhere welcome international involvement such as election monitoring and electoral training. A part from legal recognition, the most not-arguably criticized election to be held in Burma from 7 to 11 November 2010 is an election to bury alive the election held in 1990.

The Carter Center has the list of 81 elections monitored in 33 Countries including China, East Timor, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines from Asia. Likewise the National Democratic Institute (NDI), in 2010 alone, has assisted in 24 elections and will be doing so in 10 more countries.

The Burmese Election Commission will not permit any observers by giving the alleged reason that the country has had enough experience of holding elections. However it is not the experience that can rule out outside observers and guarantee impartiality as well as credibility of an election. The international, regional and local independent observers work for the elections not only in countries with weak democracies or democracies in transition, but also in the full-grown democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland.

There were two elections in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarded as turning points for democratization, one in Indonesia and one in Cambodia. Both were held in the presence of the domestic and foreign election observers including one from Burma’s elected representative residing in exile.

After the collapse of the New Order, the Indonesian election was held in the 1999 and 48 political parties participated. So in terms of number it should be compared with Burma’s 2010 election in which 42 parties will be contesting after the Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD and 5 other parties are outlawed and or prohibited. But the huge difference is presence and absence of the international observers as well as the motive of the government in power at the time of election.

At any rate, Burmese General Than Swe is not like Indonesian President Jusuf Habibie who supervised the Indonesian legislative election in 1999. The Indonesian elections were overseen by the General Elections Commission (KPU) comprising five government representatives and one from each political party. But all members of the Union Election Commission in Burma are strictly hand-picked by the junta and no one from any party is allowed.

In Cambodia since the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991 ending decades of civil war and foreign occupation, three national elections have taken place in 1993, 1998, and 2003. Although the parliamentary election held on 27 July 2003 was won by the incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen, it was held in the presence of the domestic and foreign election observers.

The Burmese authorities announced that no foreign journalists would be granted entry visa around the election dates. Surely there is something to hide. All military leaders have had training on how to evade gunfire: Seek cover whenever possible, this is anything that can stop bullets. Thus the election in Burma has to take cover from both the outsiders and own citizens because before the election there are exactly 12 journalists and 12 Parliamentarians in the prisons. The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters without borders (RSF) has fittingly ranked Burmese media environment at fifth following Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

The people of Burma are wondering how the international community will react to the results of the 2010 election. However they do not expect that the world will dissociate from the upcoming new regime in Burma because a disable child will be treated more or less equally like a normal one. Maybe some countries including the neighbors might have more sympathy. But it cannot be interpreted as human nature. When all business advantages go readily to those who deal with a cripple regime, moral consideration is overlooked by the countries which practice so-called pragmatic foreign policy when it comes to Burma.

So what is the use of boycotting the election, the call by the winners of the previous 1990 election namely the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD)?

There are noticeable anxieties of resurgence of fighting between army and some ceasefire groups after the election. Ethnic question which has been entrenched for half a century cannot be settled by means of arms and an election. In the new government the ministers responsible for those matters are to be appointed by the president who will be no other than U Than Swe.

On 24th October the leaders of the NLD and the representatives of ethnic nationalities issued the “Kalaymyo Resolution”, which calls for the second “Panglong Conference”. The first of this kind brought out a historic agreement signed by Aung San and the legitimate ethnic leaders on 12th February 1947 which made possible for independence from British. So it is not the second Election but second Panglong Conference that can solve the troubles of the Union of Burma.

The hereditary factor is the root cause of delivering a cripple. Burma needs to divorce from errant dictatorship. New possibilities will certainly become known after the election. Then for the mission, Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic nationalities and the people of Burma will work with the fresh support from the old and the new friends in need.

(with the collaboration of Nirmala Carvalho)

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