Election fraud complaint lodged against Myanmar junta party

Thursday, November 4, 2010

YANGON - The proxy party of Myanmar’s military rulers has been accused of illegally collecting advance votes for a general election to be held this weekend, sources said Thursday.

The National Unity Party (NUP) registered a complaint with the election commission against the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), alleging that the USDP illegally collected the votes in southern Myanmar and pressured constituents to vote for it.

It was the first fraud complaint in the run-up to Sunday’s general election, the first to be held in two decades.

“Our local members informed us there was a collection of illegal advance votes favouring the USDP by their party members in four townships in the Tanintharyi region, and we have already filed the case to the Union Election Commission,” Thein Tun, an NUP leader, told DPA.

According to NUP sources in Tanintharyi, the USDP asked villagers to cast advance votes with the excuse that many were fishermen and could not afford to take election day off.

In fact, fishermen account for a small percentage of the people in the villages, who were required to vote en masse in advance of the polls.

During the voting, a man stood by the polling booths and told people to “vote lion”, which is the logo of the USDP, Thein Tun said.

Under Myanmar’s election regulations, advance voting should be limited to people unable to vote on election day and the voting should be conducted “in secret”.

Members of the Union Election Commission, a body the junta set up to monitor the election, were not immediately available to comment on the complaint.

“I heard that they were now investigating the illegal act,” Thein Tun said.

The USDP is regarded as the proxy party of the military junta while the NUP represents the old regime under former military dictator Ne Win, who ruled the country from 1962 to 1988.

Both parties have fielded about 1,000 candidates each to contest the 1,159 seats up for grabs in the upper and lower houses of the national parliament as well as the state and regional parliaments.

The leading pro-democracy party in the race, the National Democracy Front, a breakaway faction of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), has fielded 160 candidates.

Election regulations have favoured the establishment parties, setting a high entry fee for candidates, which most of the smaller parties could not afford, while also barring the participation of the NLD, which is led by detained Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and which won the 1990 polls by a landslide. It was never allowed to take power.

The county’s new military-drafted constitution also mandates that 25 percent of all legislative seats be reserved for the armed forces.

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