Saturday, 6 November 2010

Burma's cynical bid for approval, a rigged ballot

The military's elaborate seven-point road map is designed simply to assure the Army will still rule.


In democracies, going to the polls is the best method for voters to keep or remove politicians who have fulfilled or failed to respond to the needs of their constituencies. However, the scheduled election in Burma today has a different function. It merely aims to legitimise the horrible regime of General Than Shwe, who has ruled his country with an iron fist.
After decades of oppression, the regime believes that it can give itself a face-lift by staging an elaborate multi-pronged scheme of democratisation, known as a seven-point road map. This blueprint will reach its finale when the polling booths across Burma open today.
The outcome is clear: the government's nominee party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, will win the majority. It is 20 years since the previous election, when the opposition party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, overwhelmingly won the vote. Burma's top generals have since learnt valuable lessons on how not to be defeated again. This time around, they have devised a long-term strategy and complicated ways and means to ensure that the USDP and their cronies in various forms and colours will win big. No wonder, several townships have the audacity to declare winners ahead of the polls. The Burmese military junta leaders are clever enough to use the electoral process as an effective instrument to wash their bloody hands. After all, the world community still considers a bad election better than no election. There have been lessons aplenty offering an insight into the role elections play in failed states or underdeveloped or controlled nations.
Take for instance what happened in Afghanistan or Sudan. Subsequent international acceptance was given, although reluctantly. With that kind of political expediency, the junta has chosen to go with the growing sentiment that an election, albeit heavily rigged and managed, is better than none.
No wonder the election in Burma has generated serious division among the Burmese community both inside and outside the country. Supporters continue to view the poll as a small window to express their preferences - the only freedom they have. Some of these voters obviously want to use their votes as an ultimate tool to punish the regime that has ignored the population. For opponents, today's election is a sham and nothing positive will come out of it. It is sad that no international monitoring teams or observers are allowed to assess the real intention of the estimated 27.4 million voters.
Representatives of UN agencies and foreign missions will be allowed to visit some polling stations, but with restrictions. Repeated Asean offers to dispatch a team of observers, which would join up with their missions based inside Burma, has been ignored by the regime. Even without any cooperation, Asean is poised to accept the poll's outcome, which we already know.

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