Myanmar

Historic by elections take place


Published

It won’t change the political complexion of the 664 seat parliament but the by-elections in 45 seats today might trigger a dramatic change in the democratisation of Myanmar (Burma).

Today is the day when the international community and probably the majority of Burmese people hope that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will finally lead her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) into parliament.

The NLD is contesting 44 of the 45 seats, with 17 parties in total putting up 160 candidates with a further eight independents standing.

The governing party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will also be hoping to do well in the by-elections.

Around six million people will vote between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time.

There have been accusations, not least by Aung San Suu Kyi, that there have been widespread irregularities which will not make the election free and fair. Reports of intimidation and of people turning up to polling stations and finding that they are not on the voter’s list have been widespread.

The generals, who still control much of the parliament, will be hoping that the NLD will win enough seats today that the international community will relax the tough sanctions currently in place. A substantial win for the NLD will give them the space to prepare for a general election in 2015 when the real test of democracy will take place.

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