x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Parties condemn 'daylight robbery'

Senior leaders in Myanmar's opposition were making plans for Aung San Suu Kyi's expected release on Saturday as they denounced the results from the country¿s first election in 20 years.

BANGKOK // Senior leaders in Myanmar's opposition were making plans for Aung San Suu Kyi's expected release on Saturday as they denounced the results from the country's first election in 20 years.

Ms Suu Kyi, the face of the country's pro-democracy movement and a Nobel Peace laureate, has spent most of the past 21 years in detention. Officials have stepped up security around Ms Suu Kyi's Yangon residence in anticipation of her release.

"We expect her to be free on Saturday, because the junta has to follow its laws," Win Tin, 81, the spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), Ms Suu Kyi's party, and a former political prisoner who spent more than 19 years in Insein Prison, said in an interview on Monday. "We will need to discuss many things. We will also be looking at the impact sanctions have had on the people before deciding what the future policy should be."

The NLD, which has officially disbanded as a political party but remains active, has formed a committee to investigate fraud allegations, Win Tin said yesterday.

He said Ms Suu Kyi "will actively get involved in the [fraud investigating] committee and give advice when she is released".

Win Tin and other leaders of the NLD are planning to gather at the gate to Ms Suu Kyi's residence if she is freed. Her son, Kim Aris, is in Bangkok waiting for a visa, in the hope he can also see her free.

"It's probably 50-50 that she will be released," said Maung Zarni, a Myanmar academic at the London School of Economics and founder of the Free Burma Coalition. Burma is the former name of Myanmar.

Military leaders claimed to have convincingly won the country's elections on Sunday, which were widely denounced as a fraud.

The opposition is strenuously contesting these results.

Unofficial results suggested that the military's favoured party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, has won more than 80 per cent of the seats in the two national assemblies. Some estimates from Myanmar military sources now put it at more than 90 per cent. Official results are expected to be released tomorrow.

"The Tatmadaw [Myanmar army] and government officials are still traumatised by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy's overwhelming victory 20 years ago and have left nothing to chance," the US-based Myanmar author Win Min said. "Than Shwe [the junta leader] ordered his people to make sure the vote eclipsed the NLD's performance in 1990 [when it won some 80 per cent of the seats]," he said.

The NLD refused to re-register with the electoral commission and were barred from Sunday's polls. The NLD and its leaders, including Ms Suu Kyi, object to the constitution, which reserves 25 per cent of the seats in parliament for the military, and electoral laws which they say are unfair and restrictive. Instead, they urged voters to boycott the elections.

Thirty-seven parties contested the election for more than 1,000 seats in two national assemblies and 14 regional parliaments. So far only a handful of politicians from non-junta parties have been declared winners in their constituencies.

"The junta has stolen this election," Khin Maung Swe, the leader of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the main opposition party and a breakaway from the NLD, told The National. "It was daylight robbery."

The NDF stood in more than 160 constituencies, and according to their observers who monitored the count, won most of the seats. However, most of their victories were overturned by the electoral officers adding the advance votes - from absentee and postal votes from abroad, and government civil servants, teachers and soldiers who were encouraged to vote early - to the count.

The other main opposition party, the Democratic Party - associated with the deceased former prime minister U Nu - suffered as well. "If my father were alive, he would say this election is the dirtiest election ever in our country, fraught with all sorts of vote-rigging," said Mya Than Than Nu, one of U Nu daughter's.

"I was not allowed to enter the polling station and was not able to send party agents there to monitor the vote count. But I knew bags of advance ballots were coming in from nowhere. At the end of the vote counting, the margins were so wide that I could not believe it."

Several parties have already lodged complaints with the electoral commission, but most are unlikely to proceed with them, said a western diplomat based in Yangon on condition of anonymity. It will cost the equivalent of US$10,000 (Dh36,700) to proceed with the complaint, and if they lose the case they will be given a $3,000 fine and three years in jail. Instead, a leading opposition politician, Than Nyein, has urged his party's candidates and others not to sign declarations recognising any controversial poll results.

"We never expected that this election would be free and fair. We all accepted lots of restrictions from the election laws to campaign rules. But what we have faced is far more than we anticipated."