Aung San Suu Kyi Cites Burmese Election Irregularities Ahead of Polls

Posted March 30th, 2012 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says parliamentary candidates in her National League for Democracy party have campaigned in the face of threats and violence ahead of Sunday's by-elections. But the Nobel laureate says both she and her colleagues are determined to go forward because “we think that is what our people want.”

“As I said earlier, I do not think we can consider it a genuinely free and fair election if we take into consideration what has been going on in the last couple of months, but still as we wish to work towards national reconciliation we will try to tolerate what has happened and we hope the courage and resolution of the people will overcome the intimidations and other irregularities that have been taking place.”

Aung San Suu Kyi — a candidate in Sunday's polls — says the irregularities go “beyond what is acceptable in a democratic election.”

NLD candidates — barred for decades from office by a military junta — are seeking 45 seats in the 440-member lower house of parliament. NLD participation was assured after the country's long-standing military government announced in late 2010 that it would step aside in favor of an elected government.

Speaking Friday in Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, said a major objective of her party's campaign was to raise the political awareness of young people. To that end, she said “we have been energized and encouraged greatly.”

“Everywhere we go we find that not just older people, but even small children are involved in the political process and are very enthusiastic about what is going on. That in itself is a triumph, whatever the result of the election.”

NLD participation in Sunday's polls comes as the new, nominally-civilian government seeks to persuade Western nations to lift wide-ranging economic sanctions imposed on the former military regime over the past two decades.

The United States and the European Union say any moves to ease those sanctions will, in large part, depend on the fairness and transparency of Sunday's polls, which will be monitored by U.S., European, and Japanese observers. Monitors from a grouping of Southeast Asian nations will also participate.

Australian National University Burma analyst Peter Farrelly tells VOA the new government appears much more open in 2012 multi-party elections than the old regime was in 2010, when it barred Aung San Suu Kyi from seeking office.

“This government of President Thein Sein, on the other hand, seems to be sufficiently confident in its own processes and practices, that is it is happy enough to see international observers arriving. There are those of course from Japan, but also from the various countries of Southeast Asia, who'll be welcomed into the country. They may not get a full picture of how exactly this election is conducted, but they should, because there is fewer than 50 seats that are being contested, be able to cover a fair amount of the ground and hopefully help to tell the world that this election has been relatively free and fair.”

A group of four regional human-rights groups issued a statement early Friday saying the April 1 elections are plagued with irregularities, but said the “real litmus test” for the new government is whether it undertakes a number of urgent reforms.