Saturday, November 6, 2010

Faux Elections

This week, the basket case of a country, Myanmar (formerly Burma) will hold its much touted elections.  The last time Myanmar had elections in 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi's party stormed to victory.  The ruling military junta at the time simply ignored the elections and Ms. Kyi has spent most of the last twenty years under house arrest.  She is scheduled to be released a week after the new elections.

Not willing to risk another embarrassing lost, the military junta has stacked the deck in its favor.  Twenty-five percent of the legislative positions are reserved for high ranking generals.  Since under the new Constitution it takes more than seventy-five percent to overrule the military leadership, the military will remain in command.  

Of course, even for the remaining seats, the elections are hardly fair.  There are two government/military sponsored party that comprise 2/3 of the candidates for elected office.  While the government provides financial support for these parties, it has put up many challenges for smaller parties.  Millions of Myanmar ethnic minorities have been ruled ineligible to vote.  

The purpose of the election is supposed to give some sort of legitimacy to the ruling junta's holding on to power.  I'm not sure who they think that they are fooling, because at least outside Myanmar, everyone knows what is going on.  I guess this might give some cover to countries like China who support Myanmar, but really, this election does nothing.    

Ms. Kyi's party has decided to boycott the sham elections.  The government threatened that if enough people do not turn out, they will simply cancel the elections.  For the people of Myanmar, I doubt that it will make any difference at all.  Does it matter if the guy who has a gun pointed at your temple and his boot on your neck is wearing a suit or an army uniform? 

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