By-Election Campaign Update

from NLD Facebook

Burma’s April 1 elections are about a month away, so I thought I would give a brief update on what’s happening in election campaigning. It has been exciting to see the crowds of people gather wherever Daw Aung San Suu Kyi goes and show their support. The NLD symbol of the fighting peacock is spreading in popularity again.

Quick Facts:
– There are 48 seats available: 40 in the lower house, 6 in the upper house and 2 in provisional assemblies.
– This represents about 7% of the seats in the national assembly (440 seats in the lower house and 224 in the upper house)
– Most of the 48 seats are vacant because the elected MPs assumed positions in the executive branch. All 48 seats were held by regime-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MPs >>
– Currently the military-backed USDP party controls 76% of non-military seats in the Parliament. There are also other proxy parties back by the military. The military has 25% of seats. >>

Some well-known candidates:
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi running for the seat in Kawhmu
Political Party: National League for Democracy
Zayar Thaw: Hip-hop star of the group Acid. Also founding member of the youth activist group Generation Wave. Former political prisoner
Political Party: National League for Democracy
Daw Bawk Jar: Kachin activist and civil society leader. Ran in the 2010 elections and didn’t get seat because of corruption.
Political Party: National Democratic Force
Daw Phyu Phyu Thin: Leading HIV/AIDs activist and operates a clinic. Former political prisoner.
Political Party: National League for Democracy

There are several candidates running who were elected in the 1990 election, but were never allowed to take office. Many of them were locked in prison for many years because of this and faced torture.

One of them is Sai Myint Maung, who was an elected representative in Shan state in 1990, and is now running again. His campaign wasn’t able to kick off until February 27 because he had to get permission from the Elections Commission. >>

Campaign Calls of the NLD:

Constitutional and Legal Reform: The 2008 Constitution that is currently being used was written by the military, for the military and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and others in the NLD want to reform it and get rid of unjust sections and other laws that continue to limit freedoms and democratic change in Burma. >>

Healthcare and Education: The healthcare and education systems in Burma are a mess, and the NLD has made it clear that these are sectors that must get more money and be changed, especially to help the young generation. >>

Unity: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD want to bring more unity to the country; between ethnic groups and even between the people and the military. In her recent trip to Kachin state she called on everyone to maintain this spirit
“Everyone must adhere to the spirit of Panglong, which is based on equality and unity, with respect, faith and belief in each other. All of these are essential for creating and maintaining a genuine democracy.” >>

On another campaign stop she called on military families as well:
“I hope our supporters in Hlegu Towhship include many families from the army. Let’s join hands together, the army and the people, for democracy” >>

Will Suu Kyi have Spot in the Cabinet?

In order to get a seat in the cabinet in Burma you must be elected to Parliament. So might Daw Aung San Suu Kyi get a higher position once she gets elected?

Her response:
“Since the offer has not been made I think it would be premature and rather presumptuous to make an answer to that. I can tell you one thing – that under the present constitution, if you become a member of the government you have to vacate your seat in the national assembly. And I am not working so hard to get into parliament simply to vacate my seat.” >>

Have their Been Instances of Election Manipulation?

Burma’s 2010 Election failed to meet basic standards of free and fair elections. See a map of election violations here:

From the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma report on the 2010 elections:
“USDP used fraud, advance votes, abuse, and other forms of intimidation to win in the elections.
During the elections process, numerous cases of intimidation, threats, coercion, voting fraud, vote stealing, vote rigging, and counting scandals occurred. Furthermore, strict prohibitions against elections observers, neglect of disagreements and complaints, abuse of state revenue, failure to uphold internationally-recognized elections standards, purposefully making inaccurate voter lists, unlawful canvassing, and impediments to free media’s access to elections-related information occurred nationwide.” >>

2012 By-Elections:

On February 20, 2012 the NLD complained that they were being restricted from being able to use public areas like stadiums for their campaigns. However not long after they said this in a press conference, they got confirmation from the Union Election Commission saying the ban on the use of sports grounds was lifted.>>

However, news today came out that the NLD is still experiencing problems in obtaining appropriate venues to hold campaign rallies. National League for Democracy chairman Aung San Suu Kyi had planned to deliver speeches on March 6 in Dekkhina Thiri, Ottara Thiri, Zabu Thiri and Pobba Thiri townships in Naypyitaw, but was denied permission in two of the townships. >>

We will also be seeing more news, as the USDP – the military-backed party will really get their campaign underway starting March 1. There are reports that they will use bribery, vote-buying, intimidation and fraud >>

The NLD candidate in Shan areas Sai Myint Maung said “Of course, I have received reports of People’s Militia Forces (PMFs) threatening villagers to vote only for the lions (the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party’s emblem). But since I have no evidence to present to the authorities, there is as yet no plan to lodge a formal complaint.” >>

There is also the problem that in Kachin areas, because so many villages have been displaced because of the conflict, people will not be able to vote.

 Will There be Election Monitors?
While numerous international figures and governments have called for Burma to allow election monitors, there has been no statement that international monitors will be allowed

from NLD Facebook
from NLD Facebook

from NLD Facebook
Zayar Thaw. Photo from Generation Wave Facebook

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