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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick