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Suu Kyi reviews the campaign: not ‘free and fair’

(Mizzima) – In a review of by-election abuses against her party, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi stated clearly that the upcoming Burmese election has not been free and fair, as she spoke during a press conference at her home on Friday. However, she said the NLD party would press ahead and the election was "significant."
A smiling Aung San Suu Kyi at Friday's press conference at her home in Rangoon, perhaps a sign that she's relieved that the bruising campaign schedule is over. Photo: Mizzima“I don't think we can consider it a genuine free and fair election if we consider what has been happening here over the last few months,” she said, her face showing signs of strain from the brutal campaign she has carried across the country, in spite of obstacles thrown up by government officials and others.

“I've not been well recently, and I'm feeling a little delicate so any difficult questions and I shall faint straight away,” she joked to the hundreds of journalists and diplomats on the ground of her lakeside home.

Obstacles encountered by the National League for Democracy (NLD) are “really beyond what's acceptable in a democratic election,” she said. “Still, we are determined to go forward because this is what our people want.”

“For any election to be considered free, fair and just, the entire process must be free and fair from the beginning right through to the end. The voting day itself is not sufficient indicator,” said Suu Kyi.

Her assessment of the fairness of the overall by-election process will likely prevent or stretch out the removal of sanctions by many international countries.

Suu Kyi, 66, said campaigning by political parties and the new act of casting a vote were increasing people's interest in politics.

“It is the rising political awareness of our people that we regard as our greatest triumph,” she said. “We don't at all regret having taken part.”

Suu Kyi has transferred waves of nationalistic energy across the country, speaking to huge crowds about the role of citizens in a democracy, the importance of voting and the rule of law.

She said she had no plan to accept a position as a minister in the newly formed government, if offered a role, because under the Constitution she would be required to give up her seat in Parliament.

“I have no intention of leaving the Parliament to which I have tried so hard to get into,” she said.

Listing election abuses it has encounter, she described “unfair treatment” by the authorities ahead of Sunday's vote.

The NLD said people in one village were forced by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to attend one of its meetings.

In the constituency of Kawhmu near Rangoon, 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. Other incidents of tainted rolls were found across the country, she said, and efforts to correct the errors came too late because of government regulations and deadlines. In addition, her campaign was repeatedly denied access to venues it requested.

Recently, President Thein Sein said there had been “unnecessary errors” in ballot lists, but said the authorities were trying to ensure the by-elections would be free and fair.

Since taking office a year ago, Thein Sein has carried out reforms including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, easing minor media restrictions and welcoming the opposition back into mainstream politics.

Unlike in the 2010 election, the government has invited foreign observers and journalists to observe the vote, but it waited to the last minute to make the offer, preventing any direct experience of  campaign irregularities.

The number of seats at stake in Sunday's vote is not enough to threaten the ruling party's overwhelming majority in Parliament.  

Suu Kyi said the by-election was “a step towards step one in democracy.”

She added: “Our opinion is that once we get into Parliament we will be able to work towards genuine democratization.”
Last Updated ( Friday, 30 March 2012 16:15 )  

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