Mon 26 Mar 2012
Filed under: Elections,Inside Burma
YANGON — Myanmar’s president urged the country to respect “the decision of the people” in key by-elections, state media said on Monday, ahead of a poll expected to sweep Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament.Thein Sein, a former general who has spearheaded wide ranging reforms since taking power a year ago, said the authorities were trying to ensure “free and fair” elections in the country formerly known as Burma.
“Winners and losers will emerge in the by-elections as per usual. We all need to work together to ensure that the outcome is accepted by all the people,” he said in a speech published by The New Light of Myanmar.
“Respecting the decision of the people”, parties need to be able to “bear” losing, the state mouthpiece quoted him as saying.
Myanmar’s April 1 by-elections are seen as a key test of the regime’s commitment to burgeoning reforms, which have included welcoming Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) back into mainstream politics.
The Nobel laureate was forced to call off further campaign travel on Sunday after falling ill during the latest leg of her gruelling schedule of election rallies around the country.
The polls mark the first time that Suu Kyi is standing for election in a country that has been dominated by the military for decades.
A 2010 election that swept the army’s political allies to power was marred by complaints of cheating and intimidation, as well as the exclusion of Suu Kyi, who was released from years of house arrest just days later.
This time Myanmar has invited US, European and other observers to watch the voting.
Thein Sein said the “attention of the whole world has focused on the by-elections” and admitted that there had been “unnecessary errors” in ballot lists.
The NLD said last week that in the constituency of Kawhmu near Yangon, where Suu Kyi is standing, the names of hundreds of dead people were found on the electoral roll, while more than 1,300 valid voters were left off.
The NLD cannot threaten the ruling party’s majority even with a strong result in the by-elections, but experts believe the regime wants Suu Kyi to win a place in parliament to give its reform drive legitimacy and encourage the West to ease sanctions.
There are 45 seats at stake after authorities last week postponed voting in three constituencies in the conflict-hit far north because of security worries.