Burmese election: 'We will vote for anything, but not our government'

It was Burma's first election in a generation, but the sight of a flak-jacketed policeman dozing on his rifle outside a near-deserted polling station on Rangoon's Mahabandoola Garden Street summed up the underwhelming atmosphere of the day.

Across the crumbling old colonial capital yesterday, where schools and public offices had been converted to polling stations, there were no crowds, no queues, and almost no signs of excitement about a vote that many Burmese believe is designed to do little more than paint a civilian façade on military rule.

Nevertheless, some voters regarded this deeply flawed process as their only opportunity to express a desire for change after half a century of oppressive military rule and ruinous economic policies.

"We will vote for anything, but not our government. We want to use this election to slap them in the face," said a middle-aged man waiting in the shade on a narrow side street for his wife to emerge from the decaying, 19th-century imperial office that housed his local polling station.

Where they are running, opposition candidates are confident of victory, but their small numbers mean they can only dent the overall result. Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein, 62, a candidate for the opposition Democratic Party which fielded around 50 candidates, said her tireless campaigning through the rainy season in the rural constituency of Gyo Bin Gauk should yield results. "For the past four months, I have been visiting half a dozen villages a day. Every step has been treacherous. I have lost count of the shoes I have lost in the mud. These people have been suppressed for 20 years and they were scared. But I think today they will be courageous and vote for me," she said.

An unscientific "teashop" poll in a northern suburb of Rangoon suggested turnout had been high, by lunchtime, three quarters of customers said they had voted, the rest said there was no one they wanted to vote for. Voters said they were pleased that there was anonymity on the ballot paper, something not all were expecting in a country with so little experience of democracy. For anyone under the age of 38, this was the first time they had cast a ballot in a national election.

In mid-morning, an armed police escort complete with motorcycle outriders delivered a state television crew to record an unquestioning report from a tidy high school polling station, highlighting the media restrictions and tight rules that have left many voters ignorant of the choices.

"I will vote for Aung San Suu Kyi," said a taxi driver rushing through a few fares before heading back to his township to vote. He wasn't aware that the detained Nobel peace laureate, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 80 per cent of the votes in 1990, is boycotting the poll, and has called on voters to stay at home or spoil their ballot papers.

Foreign observers and journalists were banned from the election, and diplomats such as the British Ambassador, Andrew Heyn, had to watch the proceedings from a distance, parking across the street from polling stations and trying to get a sense of the fairness of the process.

"We weren't allowed inside the polling stations so it's hard for us to judge," Mr Heyn said. "But one thing is certain, the damage has already been done in the lead up to this election, meaning it cannot be a fair vote."

Ballots were to be counted inside the polling stations with agents of candidates allowed to observe the process. But there were concerns that these niceties would be overlooked, particularly in rural areas where voters have reported intimidation and vote-buying.

The authorities have declined to give an indication of when results can be expected, saying only that details of the vote counts would be released gradually. "We're looking at anywhere between 24 hours and a week," Mr Heyn said.

News
people
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Life and Style
tech Manband spurn Spotify to stream album exclusively with Google
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
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: PHP Web Developer

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of web an...

Recruitment Genius: Class 1 Driver

£12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader in the events...

Recruitment Genius: Finance and Office Administrator

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An award winning field marketing agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Telesales / Appointment Maker

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A professional telesales/appoin...

Day In a Page

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
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?