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Than Shwe Announces Elections as Planned

By Burma Partnership  •  January 8, 2010

We hope that the New Year finds you well and prepared for the busy year we have ahead of us!

Only days into the New Year, on the 62nd anniversary of Burma’s Independence Day on January 4th, Senior General Than Shwe confirmed the military regime’s plan to hold elections this year, warning the people to make “correct choices”. The junta chief failed to give a concrete deadlines or the date on which the people of Burma would head to the polls, a tactic that gives the junta-backed parties a head start in campaigning. In the latest attempt to win votes even before the elections have been called, the Union Solidarity and Development Association organized a free eye clinic in Momauk Township, Bhamo District, Kachin State. The clinic was attended by over one thousand residents, as well as Brigadier General San Htun, Vice-Commander of the Northern Regional Command. Meanwhile, the junta has denied permission for the National League for Democracy to convene a meeting to discuss the reorganization of the party.

Speculation about the timing of the elections has been mounting. Japanese news agency Asahi Shimbun reported that according to a military source, the junta is planning for polls on October 10th. The same source said that many current ministers would be resigning from their military posts so they can announce their candidacy by April, when the election laws will also be promulgated. The New York Times published a conflicting account that Western diplomats have received indications that the vote will come in the late spring or early summer.

It is already clear that these elections are going according to the junta’s plan: manipulation and repression are being meted out in order to ensure that the military and its cronies come out on top. These are not conditions under which elections can be free and fair. At the very minimum, the regime must release all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; engage in inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders, including a comprehensive review of the 2008 Constitution; and cease human rights abuses and criminal hostilities against the people of Burma. Only then will it be possible to hold truly democratic elections.

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