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Burmese Wake Up to First Election in Two Decades

A Karen ethnic woman casts an advance vote at a local election commission office Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010, in Rangoon, Burma.

Burma has banned independent journalists from covering the election, but VOA has been speaking with a freelance journalist inside the country. We are not disclosing her identity for safety reasons. She has this report from Rangoon.

The polls have opened in Burma for the first elections in 20 years. The vote pits candidates loyal to the ruling military against pro-democracy groups that have broken away from the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy.

"Last night and this morning, the streets have been very quiet. There was a lot of riot police out Friday and Saturday. Big trucks with shields and soldiers with rifles and tear gas. And they're not so visible at the moment. They were on Friday and a little bit on Saturday. But by [Sunday], they're not really around.

[Saturday] and the day before were sort of the most intense days for campaigning and canvassing, even though it was announced that the campaigns should end on November 1. So independent candidates and opposition groups have been really seriously campaigning right up until the last minute.

It's a pretty quiet day so far. The diplomats are going to be lead around by union [government] election commission officials on what they've been calling an explanatory mission. All diplomats were invited along, and a number of diplomatic missions have chosen to reject the opportunity, including U.K., U.S. and Australian officials. The foreign diplomats are going to be guided around with one [government] election official per person, so obviously it's going to be quite a limited view of what's going on at the polls."