News / Asia

Three Questions: Burma Elections

Bridge that connects Thai border town of Mae Sot to Burma
Bridge that connects Thai border town of Mae Sot to Burma
Les Carpenter

Burma will hold national elections, the first in 20 years, on November 7.  The elections are controversial because the military has ruled the country for decades and the last election, in 1990, won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was not allowed to take their parliamentary seats and the election was disavowed.  This time, there are some signs that things have changed, but not by a lot.  Many of the military leaders and their supporters are now running as civilians for nearly all the parliamentary seats.  Still, there are signs that some of the opposition parties may win seats in legislature.  

As Election Day nears, Internet connections in Burma have been disrupted at times for the past week, slowing communications with the outside world.  The ruling military offered no explanation for the Internet failure, unlike during past outages.  This has prompted human rights groups to speculate that the connections were deliberately shut down to slow the flow of information out of Burma ahead of Election Day.  

David Steinberg, a professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is a specialist on Burma.

The Burmese military government says these elections will allow the political opposition to have a voice in parliament for the first time in decades.  Do you think that will happen?

Oh! Yes, I think it will happen, but it's far more significant than just in 20 years.  This will be the first time in 50 years that there will be, I believe, some opposition voices in parliament.  So, it is far more significant than the last election in 1990 which was, of course, ignored by the government.


Further, there's another aspect to this.  This is also the first time in all of Burma's history where we have what we could call state or provincial legislatures that will have some local authority.  And, there will be 14 of them in addition to the national bicameral legislature.  So, this is an innovation that we don't know how it's going to work.  

Still, the military, quite clearly, will not lose control, that is evident.  

Some are calling this election little more than a sham.  Is it?


I think that is unfair.  It is an election where the military will continue to have control that has been evident, forever, almost.  But, it is not a sham because there will be some opposition, I believe.  The minorities will have an extended role in these provincial legislatures.  That's likely to be important but we don't know what's going to develop.  

One of the critical issues, of course, is after the elections, after these parliaments are in place, whether their debates or discussion can be available in the media.  What will they do with the censorship law?  That's one of the critical issues that have to be addressed.  

Well, it is one of the problems because they have barred outside reporters and diplomats from visiting Burma to observe the election.  So, is there any guarantee this election will be free and fair?

There are two things to think about, or maybe three.  One is, have the campaigning and the election laws been fair?  The answer is no.  Will the vote counting be fair?  We don't know because in 1990 with government control (of the election) the campaigning was clearly unfair but the vote counting was fair, otherwise how could the opposition win 80% of the seats?  So, we don't know what's going to happen on that.

It's somewhat different than has been represented.  I don't think it is a sham, but it is controlled.  The diplomats who are resident in the country will be allowed to observe certain restricted places.  But, they won't have free access.  And, certainly, visas have been denied to people, some I know wanted to go.   So, yes, they are keeping a lid on it, there's no doubt about that.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid