Burmese junta rigged vote through advanced voting
by Tint Swe
The Election Commission used bags of pre-marked ballots to beat anti-junta candidates. Hopes and expectations for a clean vote are dashed. Aung San Suu Kyi remains the country’s true leader.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won 80 per cent of the seats in Sunday’s election by rigging the vote with the help of Myanmar’s military junta. The only opposition party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), took only five seats in Yangon.

The USDP ran virtually unopposed with 1,150 candidates against 163 for the NDF. Each candidate had to pay US$ 500 to run, a sum that is the equivalent of the annual revenue of a middle class family.

If this was not enough, the military junta rigged the vote through corruption, threats, and vote buying in exchange for food, not to mention pre-marking ballots of would be absentee voters living abroad  or voters who could not vote on election day.

AsiaNews has asked Dr Tint Swe for his views on the election. He is a member of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) set up by Burmese exiles who fled their homeland following the junta’s decision to ignore the outcome of elections in 1990 won by the National League for Democracy. After escaping from his country in 1990, he settled in India. Since 21 December 1991, he has lived in New Delhi. He is in charge of Information for South Asia and East Timor.

In the entire world, no one expected that the November election in Burma would be free or fair. Some governments are inclined to accept relatively flawed election practice. Some people in Burma hoped that something was better than nothing. The political parties that contested the election anticipated fair play. Voters thought their vote would be counted correctly. Non-junta candidates wanted to rely on the people’s verdict. All expectations were wrong.

The gambit was overpowered by the referee and the linemen. The Union Election Commission had thoroughly prepared things, making everything ready for emergency use. The effective and widespread use of “advance voting” did the trick. Government employees were instructed to cast advance voting in the presence of their respective officials. Villagers were summoned to do the same in front of village chiefs. Soldiers and their families did likewise before their commanders. When votes were counted in the evening of 7 November, that was enough.

Many candidates were overwhelmed that evening when the votes were counted in their favour. However, it took election officials just a couple of hours to bring bags full of so-called advance votes marked by a single ball pen, each bag with enough ballots, a hundred, a thousand or ten thousand to overturn early results. All these additional ballots went to the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which should secure no less than 80 per cent of all seats in the houses of parliament.

The two largest pro-democracy parties, the National Democratic Force (NDF) and the Democratic Party (Myanmar) have conceded victory to the USDP. U Khin Maung Swe, head of the largest party, the NDF, said, "We took the lead at the beginning but the USDP later came up with so-called advance votes and that changed the results completely; so we lost."

U Thu Wai, chairman of the Democracy party, said his party had won at 29 out of 30 polling stations but lost when final results were announced.

State-run newspaper the New Light of Myanmar reported that the USDP won 91 seats, the PaO National Organization won 11 seats, the Taaung Palaung National Party won 12 seats, the Kayin State Democracy and Progress Party and National Unity Party won 2 seats each, and the Wa Democratic Party won 4 seats.

The night of 7 November 2010 cannot be compared to that of 27 May 1990, when the people gave the National League for Democracy (NLD) a landslide victory.

This time, people watched something resembling a magician’s show. The lion, the symbol of the USDP, came out of the magician’s hat.

Non-junta candidates may have won ethnic areas but they can only sit in regional assemblies controlled by appointed Chief Ministers.

While the people and political parties are battling with the Election Commission, people on Thai-Burma border are fleeing from the battle between Burmese army and the Democratic Karan Buddhist Army (DKBA) at Myawaddy and Three-pagoda pass.

The DKBA leader, aka ‘Mr. Moustache’, said that they are fighting to show their disapproval of the unfair election and reiterate their view that Aung San Suu Kyi is Burma’s national leader.

Going against tradition in India as well as Burma, whereby a guest does not speak about what one’s host does not like to hear, US President Barack Obama did it the American way and talked about Burma at a joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the (lower and upper) houses of parliament of the world’s largest democracy.

The President said, “Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community, especially leaders like the United States and India to condemn it.”

The US leader explained that speaking up for those who cannot do it for themselves is not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries; it is not violating the rights of sovereign nations, but it is staying true to our democratic principles.