Aung San Suu Kyi criticises Burmese election irregularities
Esmer Golluoglu, Rangoon,Guardian: Aung San Suu Kyi has said Burma’s elections this weekend will be neither free nor fair because of widespread irregularities, but vowed to press forward with her candidacy for the sake of the country.The 66-year-old Nobel peace laureate told a news conference that the irregularities went “beyond what is acceptable for democratic elections”.
Speaking to international election observers as well as foreign and local journalists on the lawn in front of her stone villa, Aung San Suu Kyi was coded in her response.
“We don’t have spring in Burma,” she said. “We think in terms of the cool season, the hot season and the dry season. So what we hope for is not spring – because spring does not last forever – but we hope for the kind of situation where our people can enjoy the kind of climate that they like best.”
After five decades of often brutal military rule, the country has ushered in a slew of reforms under the presidency of Thein Sein, including freeing political prisoners and allowing Aung San Suu Kyi’s party – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – to register for Sunday’s polls.
Many abroad have questioned if the elections signify Burma’s Arab spring, and whether this seeming revolution with no name – as it has been termed – will bring about the long-awaited political and social change that many expect.
Aung San Suu Kyi has long called herself a cautious optimist, and on Friday she was both careful and hopeful in her appraisal of polling day. She said opposition candidates had been targeted in stone-throwing incidents and other acts of intimidation. She also cited vandalism of party campaign posters, and openly blamed some of the acts on “people in official positions”.
According to her party, in the constituency that Aung San Suu Kyi is contesting – Kawhmu, close to Rangoon – the names of hundreds of dead persons are said to be on the electoral roll while those of more than 1,300 eligible voters are missing. Nonetheless, she vowed to press forward with her candidacy for the sake of the country and said she did “not at all regret having taken part in [the elections]”.
The daughter of General Aung San, an independence fighter whom the Burmese consider a national hero, Aung San Suu Kyi is herself considered a living saint by many and is expected to go above and beyond the normal capacity of a politician if elected – putting an end to the ethnic conflicts, suppressed economy and lack of freedoms that have long plagued Burmese society.
Aung San Suu Kyi said such responsibility lay less with her than with the people themselves: “It’s not a question of my living up to these expectations. The people must live up to their own expectations: this is what I want them to understand.”
After campaigning all over the country in exceptional heat, Aung San Suu Kyi was taken ill this week and told by her doctor to rest. Looking elegant but tired, Aung San Suu Kyi stood tall for nearly two hours, battling speaker problems and high temperatures while denying notions that she may be unfit to take office.
She said her campaigning had energised her by demonstrating that the Burmese population had been “quick to wake up” after “decades of quiescence”. But she added: “This country can very well survive without me. I have found that the people have the right spirit to survive. They have the guts and they have the commitment.”
Sunday’s elections will fill 45 vacant seats in Burma’s 664-seat national parliament, with the NLD contesting 44 of those 45. A victory by Aung San Suu Kyi and the opposition would do little to alter the balance of power but would give her a voice in parliament for the first time – and “even one voice can be heard loudly all over the world in this day and age”, she said.
“An election alone is not going to change the country. It’s the people, a change in the spirit of our people, which will change our nation.”