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.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week