Burma's regime prepares for victory despite poll boycott call

The leader of Burma's democratic movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, is due to be released from house arrest here on 13 November, but the governing junta has warned that she could be put on trial again if she continues to remind the public that they have the right to abstain from voting.

In a long article published on Sunday in the newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, which is the regime's mouthpiece, the writer, Kyaw Myo Aung, said: "A voter can choose not to vote, but a person who is found guilty of inciting the people to boycott the election is liable for not more than one's year's prison term or a fine of up to 100,000 kyats [£9,700], or both."

Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in Burma's last election 20 years ago, has spent more than 15 years confined to her house in Rangoon since 1989. Her party's triumph in the 1990 legislative elections – in which the regime's proxy party, the National Unity Party, won just 10 seats – was never honoured by the regime.

Earlier this year her party was offered the possibility of registering for the new elections, which will be held next Sunday, but only on condition that it expelled Ms Suu Kyi and some 200 other party members who are serving jail terms. The party refused, and was officially dissolved.

Yesterday's newspaper article accused Ms Suu Kyi's party of trying to "disrupt" the elections with "subversive acts" and of being aided in the attempt by the BBC and other foreign broadcasters. "Broadcasting stations like the BBC... [are] repeatedly airing broadcasts designed to instigate the people to refrain from voting in the upcoming elections," it claimed.

Endorsed by a stern editorial, which described voting as "a basic right" but also as "the national duty of citizens," the article left the unmistakable impression that, although 37 parties are contesting the election, it is really a contest between the regime's proxy parties and the genuinely democratic enemy it has been trying to eliminate by all possible means for 20 years now.

For collectors of psephological oddities, this Burmese election is one for the scrapbook.

With six days to go, it is hard to find indications that anything out of the ordinary is about to happen. In Rangoon, nobody is out campaigning. There are no election meetings, as assemblies of more than 50 people are banned. Canvassing door-to-door would appear to be out of the question.

The scowling photos of four middle-aged gentlemen stuck to a board outside a Chinese temple, all standing for the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the regime's new proxy party, were the only posters of candidates visible in the city centre.

The only other sign of election activity was a truck on the road to Sule Pagoda in the city centre with the farmer's hat symbol, the kamauk, emblazoned on its side. This was the NLD's icon in the 1990 election, but this time around has been adopted by the National Democratic Force – a breakaway party formed by NLD members opposed to the party's decision to boycott the election. The use of the symbol, has angered NDL activists, who fear it will confuse supporters.

After the disastrous humiliation of 1990, the regime is trying to do everything in its power to assure a clean sweep this time, and it is hard to see how it can fail. The £300 fee for candidates to register – a huge sum here – means that in many constituencies only candidates for the proxy parties are running. In those constituencies, the junta's favoured candidates are therefore assured of winning (as long as at least one person votes for them). In total, the two regime-sponsored parties have three times as many candidates as those of all the other parties put together.

The most remarkable aspect of the 1990 election was that there was apparently very little attempt to rig the result – hence the regime's black eye. But the outcome of a referendum on the new constitution, held in 2008, with more than 90 per cent supposedly voting "yes" (including the millions who had barely survived the disastrous cyclone Nargis a couple of weeks earlier), suggests that the regime has now mastered the art of obtaining the result it wants.

Six genuine opposition parties – including the Democratic Party led by the daughter of Burma's first prime minister, U Nu, and two other senior women from the political class – are banding together in an alliance to fight for seats in the former capital, Rangoon. It is the only part of the country where they are thought to have a chance of landing a significant blow on the regime's parties.

But even here it may be "the Lady's" call to voters to stay at home on election day that hurts the generals the most.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game