Burma’s military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) claimed an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s (Nov 7) polls on Tuesday (Nov 9) even as ethnic rebels and government troops clashed in post-election violence.
The fighting which erupted near the Thai border forced 20,000 people from Myawaddy town, in Karen state, to flee to Thailand on Monday (Nov 8).
Most of the people headed home Tuesday evening as the fighting eased, according to sources in the Thai border town of Mae Sot. But reports said there was still fighting near Three Pagodas Pass, further south.
According to sources inside Burma, the public mood, which was cautiously optimistic after the country’s first election in 20 years, turned negative as the USDP said it had won about 80 per cent of the contested seats.
A Reuters report quoted a senior USDP official as saying that the party had won 85 of the 91 seats in Irrawaddy division, 103 of the 105 seats in Mandalay, 28 out of 30 in Shan State East, and 30 out of 60 in Shan State South.
Even though continued military control was a foregone conclusion, pro-democracy parties had hoped to win seats in the upper and lower houses as well as 14 regional assemblies.
The landslide victory claimed by the USDP Tuesday all but dashed the initial optimism.
‘Advance voting’ in remote rural areas – the subject of several complaints by political parties – appeared to have swung the results in the USDP’s favour.
United States-based academic Win Min said early counting had shown the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF) winning in many areas in Rangoon and Mandalay.
After the advance votes were counted, “the NDF won only 16 seats, although they had 50 seats on the first day”, he said.
The NDF was set up by former members of the erstwhile National League for Democracy, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. She is due to be released when her house arrest term expires on Saturday (Nov 13).
“The regime is showing its true colours. It is sad for the people of Burma,” the academic added.
In Shan state, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) said it was also a victim of rigged advance votes, which election officials began collecting from Nov 3.
In contrast, its predecessor party – the Shan National League for Democracy – won a landslide victory in the state in 1990. Several of the old party’s leaders remain in jail.
General Yawd Serk, leader of the Shan State Army – South – one of 17 armed groups observing a ceasefire with the Burmese army – was quoted in the Chiang Mai-based journal Irrawaddy as saying: “This election is not good for everyone, in our point of view, because it wasn’t free, fair or credible. It can’t solve the problems which are still happening in the ethnic areas. The regime just wanted to legitimise itself.”
The US and other Western countries have called Sunday’s election a sham.
But China Tuesday said it welcomed the election, calling it “a critical step for Myanmar (Burma) in implementing the seven-step road map in the transition to an elected government”.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) chair Viet Nam also said the polls were a “significant step forward”.
“Asean encourages Myanmar (Burma) to continue to accelerate the process of national reconciliation and democratisation, for stability and development in the country,” it said in a statement.
The border clashes showed how easily violence could flare up again even though many of the ethnic rebel groups had signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese regime. Tensions spiked recently when the groups opposed a plan to form a Border Guard Force under the army’s command.
In the north, where polling was cancelled in four conflict-prone townships, the United Wa State Party said in a pre-election statement that it would not recognise the authority of the federal government in those areas. The party has an armed wing with about 30,000 fighters.
Northern and eastern Burma comprises a complex patchwork of ethnic groups, many of which have been fighting for independence or autonomy since colonial times. Rival factions also feud over local business interests in natural resources, taxes and, in some cases, drugs.
Source: Asia News Net