Myanmar elections denounced as unfair, restrictive of citizens' rights

[JURIST] The European Union (EU) [official website] on Monday criticized [press release, PDF] the Myanmar government for failing to take the necessary steps to ensure a free, fair and inclusive electoral process for the country's first elections in over 20 years. The EU noted that many aspects of the elections, which were held Sunday, were incompatible with internationally accepted standards, especially with regards to the bias shown against parties in opposition to the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the ruling military junta. Opposition parties faced limits on their opportunities to campaign as well as restrictions on their ability to register for the elections. In addition, the elections were characterized by severe restrictions on citizens' freedoms of expression and assembly and limited access to the media. Multiple claims alleging fraud [Reuters report] reinforce the notion that the elections were flawed. In Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, many voters were unable to find their names on electoral rolls, and at least six parties filed complaints to the election commission, claiming state workers were forced to vote for the USDP. The EU was not alone in its disapproval of the elections. As a result of the restrictions in place throughout the electoral process, the UK described the elections as a missed opportunity for democratic change [AP report]. US President Barack Obama, while delivering a parliamentary address in India, criticized [AFP report] Myanmar's military leaders for stealing the election and also criticized India for its silence on the issue. A spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that the Secretary followed the elections [statement] and reiterated his call that all political prisoners be released so that the elections could mark a transition to a democratic government.

One party and candidate excluded from the elections was Myanmar's largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) [party website] and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Suu Kyi was prevented from participating in the elections under Myanmar's current election laws [JURIST report], which include a provision prohibiting political prisoners from seeking public office. In October, Myanmar's Supreme Court heard [JURIST report] Suu Kyi's final appeal of her extended sentence for violation of the terms of her house arrest [JURIST report]. In that appeal, filed in May, lawyers for Suu Kyi argued that she is innocent, and that the election law passed by the ruling junta should be annulled [JURIST report].

 

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