Election fraud complaints against Myanmar junta party

Last Updated: Sat, Nov 06, 2010 12:20 hrs

Yangon, Nov 6 (DPA) Pro-democracy parties contesting Myanmar's general election registered several complaints Saturday against the proxy party of the ruling junta for allegedly committing fraud of collecting advance votes -- a day ahead of the poll.

The complaints against the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) were made on the eve of the election Sunday, the first polls in Myanmar for the past two decades.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest, has called for a boycott of the elections, which have largely been described as a sham by foreign powers for preserving a veto block of seats for the military.

'I have heard from our candidates that the USDP was collecting advance vote ballots with village-level election commission members,' said Than Nyein, chairman of the National Democratic Force (NDF), one of the leading pro-democracy parties contesting the polls.

'I have registered a complaint with the Election Commission and hope they force these advance ballots to be returned,' he told DPA.

In another case, members of the Democratic Party (Myanmar) succeeded in forcing local election commissioners to have all advance ballots returned Saturday after they had been taken by USDP followers, Democratic Party (Myanmar) chairman Thu Wai said.

Independent candidate Saw Naing said observers sent to monitor the advance voting in his contested constituency of Okkalapa township, in Yangon, had been threatened with beatings by USDP thugs if they did not leave.

The USDP is deemed the proxy party of the junta in this election, and is expected to win the most seats in the contest for 1,159 seats in three houses of parliament: upper, lower and regions/states.

The USDP, flush with state funding, has fielded some 1,121 candidates, the highest number of the 37 parties in the race.

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

Election regulations have favoured the establishment parties, setting a high entry fee for candidates that most of the smaller parties could not afford while also barring the participation of the NLD, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which won the 1990 polls by a landslide.

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

Polling will start at 6 a.m. Sunday (2330 GMT Saturday), and finish at 4 p.m. The junta has barred international election monitors or foreign journalists from observing the voting, although it has arranged a tour of voting Sunday for Yangon-based diplomats and local journalists.

The ambassadors representing the European Union, US, Britain and Australia have refused to join the poll-booth tour.