After being under attack for “staging” a country election, Myanmar’s first national election poll in 20 years closes and the tallying begins Sunday. The city of Yangon, the country’s former national capital that is also known as Rangoon, was guarded with Riot police.
The Union for Solidarity and Development (USD), a running party supported by the governing junta of mostly ex-military members , sent out numerous election workers to the countryside, where many rural residents didn’t know how to vote, to educate the people on voting.
According to an USD election worker, their objective is not just to campaign for their party but to teach the people on how to vote as many people don’t know how to vote. “These are our candidates for this region. It is not important to put down the name of the party, but the people have to know our symbol and make their mark right here,” he said, showing CNN how it’s done.
And their approach seems to be working — especially in rural areas, where most people in the nation live. One woman told CNN “If someone tells me what to vote, I will follow that guideline because I don’t know anything about the election.”
But critics are not impress with the election with some suggesting it a “sham” or just creating a facade of democracy. Several residents seem to agree, saying they did not expect any changes as a result of the election.
“Nothing will change after the election. The government is not trying to convince us. We don’t matter to them because we are poor,” said one farmer. “I don’t care who will be elected,” he added. “I don’t know whom I will vote for because I have no knowledge of politics.”
Myanmar, also know as Burma, is ruled by the military junta since 1962. The ruling clan has rejected any form of international monitoring for this election. According to Thein Soe, chairman of the election commission the country has many experiences in election and so they don’t see the need for experts on this issue.
“And since we have all ambassadors who are representing their countries, we don’t think we need to invite any special group to observe the election since all the ambassadors are here and can watch it on election day,” Soe said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the ruling military junta on Sunday.
“We look at Burma today holding flawed elections that once again expose the abuses of the military junta. It’s heartbreaking because the people of Burma deserve so much better,” she said during a visit to Australia.
Leading democracy activist and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi refused to participate in the elections, her lawyer Nyan Win. “Since NLD is not participating in this coming election, she doesn’t want to vote,” Win said.
Suu Kyi’s party, The National League for Democracy, did not run for office because a new law had forced the NLD to choose between placing their bets with Suu Kyi and been declared illegal or replacing the Nobel laureate and resume with the elections.