Burma Elections Under Tight Junta Control

The last time Burma's junta tried rigging an election in hopes of putting a civilian face on its military rule, in 1990, it was routed at the polls. The junta responded by annulling the results. Now, with the country's first vote in 20 years set for Nov. 7, the generals have apparently learned their lesson: this time, the process will be even more tightly controlled.

In 2008 the junta pushed through a Constitution that guarantees it a quarter of parliamentary seats and a continued stranglehold on state power. In the upcoming elections, meanwhile, opposition candidates need permission to campaign and are barred from shouting slogans, waving flags, criticizing the junta, or "harming security." Civil servants and monks are barred from running, as is anyone convicted of a crime—which means a good portion of the politically inclined. And parties must submit a list of at least 1,000 members in order to register, a scary proposition for voters who live in constant fear of the military and its spies. (One party chair has complained that security forces are already intimidating members on his list.)

None of this lends the appearance of legitimacy to the elections, and candidates are starting to quit in protest and threatening to boycott the polls. Unfortunately, this will likely matter very little to countries such as the other ASEAN nations and China, which have already been willing to do business with the junta and turn a blind eye to human rights. Worse, it may even give political cover to those like India that hope to ramp up trade with Burma. Twenty years later, it's likely that the junta will finally get its desired results at the polls—but from an election free in name only.

Burma Elections Under Tight Junta Control | World