Myanmar prime minister issues warning against plots to disrupt elections

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Myanmar’s prime minister issues election warning

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s prime minister warned citizens to protect the country’s image during November elections and to prevent anyone from derailing the first polls in 20 years, state media reported Wednesday.

The Nov. 7 vote is a keystone of what the military-ruled country says is a transition to civilian rule after five decades under the army, although many see it as a means of prolonging its dominance.

“The success of the election is a matter of national dignity and concerns every citizen. Thus, it is necessary to prevent those who are trying to disrupt the election,” Prime Minister Thein Sein was quoted saying in comments carried by Myanma Ahlin and the two other state-run newspapers.

State media often accuse “terrorists” or anti-government groups of plotting to disrupt the vote. It was first such warning from a senior official.

Thein Sein did not elaborate on any alleged threat, though the junta’s biggest perceived threat is detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Her National League for Democracy opposition party is boycotting elections and Suu Kyi has said through a spokesman that dissatisfied voters have the right not to vote — stopping short of calling for a voter boycott.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and governments around the world say that restrictive rules governing the elections show it will be unfair and undemocratic.

Suu Kyi’s party won the country’s last election in 1990 but the junta refused to let the party take power. Suu Kyi has been in jail or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Thein Sein also urged voters to choose “patriotic persons and those who will prevent the Union (of Myanmar) from disintegration” when casting ballots. He made the comments at the opening ceremony of a hospital in the Irrawaddy Delta, the area hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, which left 140,000 people dead or missing.

Thein Sein is the leader of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party which was formed in April after he and 26 other Cabinet officials resigned their military posts to make them eligible to take part in politics.

The USDP is widely expected to win the most votes in the election because its ties with the junta give the party access to easy funding and a nationwide presence.

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