News / Asia

US President Calls Burma Elections 'Sham'

US President Barack Obama, left, adjusts a microphone as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono walks behind before a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 09 Nov 2010
US President Barack Obama, left, adjusts a microphone as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono walks behind before a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 09 Nov 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeated his charge that Burma's election Sunday was neither free nor fair, and called on Burma to release political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose term of house arrest ends on Saturday.

Mr. Obama made the comments during a news conference in Indonesia, where he is on a state visit. He commended Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for standing up to Burma on what he called "sham" elections.

Senior officials with Burma's ruling party, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, have told reporters the party got as much as 80 percent of the votes in the country's first election in 20 years.

Pro-democracy parties said cheating appears to have robbed them of seats they had expected to win. In addition, ruling party candidates ran unopposed in some parts of the country. Official results are expected in the next few days.

Restrictive rules had made it impossible for the opposition parties - the National Democratic Force and the Democratic Party - to contest more than a small percentage of the seats.

Officials for the two parties say they have done worse than expected, however, even in those constituencies - partly because of controversial "advance votes," which swung the results to the USDP.

Despite the complaints of fraud, Vietnam on Tuesday issued a statement on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations describing the election as a "significant step forward." The statement also encouraged Burma to "accelerate the process of national reconciliation and democratization."

China's Foreign Ministry also welcomed the election, calling it a "critical step" on the road to an elected government. Most Western and other Asian nations, though, have criticized the election as a lost opportunity to move toward reconciliation and stability.

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, has been in detention, off and on, for most of the past 20 years. Her party boycotted the vote because of what it said were unfair rules. It won the country's last elections in 1990 but the military refused to let it take office.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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