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Foreign monitors, media barred from Myanmar polls

Myanmar's election commission chairman Thein Soe has confirmed many observers' fears: foreign monitors and media will not be allowed at the November 7 polls.

Thein Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Election Commission

Thein Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Election Commission

48 years of military rule, and the first election in 20 years. Nevertheless, there is neither more, nor less at stake for the junta in Myanmar (Burma) than the legitimisation of their rule. Perhaps that is the reason for this last public step in an election which critics say is already threatening to turn into a farce.

Democracy icon behind bars

Aung San Suu Kyi: icon of Myanmar's democratic movement

Aung San Suu Kyi: icon of Myanmar's democratic movement

Opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest - her party won the elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power. Suu Kyi herself has spent the larger part of the past 20 years in detention. Her current term of house arrest is scheduled to end on November 13, or a week after the election.

The name of the game

29 million voters will be eligible to vote across 40,000 polling stations, over 3,000 candidates from over 30 parties are contesting the election. But a quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for the military, and the election rules are considered to be tilted in favour of the junta's proxy parties, among them the Union Solidarity and Development Party led by Prime Minister Thein Sein.

Thein Sein retired from his military post earlier this year. And the junta announced last month that voting was being scrapped in parts of the insurgency-plagued ethnic areas, in effect excluding millions from the poll.

The main reason given by election commission chairman Thein Soe for the exclusion of foreign monitors and media is that "our country has a lot of experience in elections". A second reason: diplomats and representatives from UN organisations based inside the Myanmar will be allowed to observe the voting. But no photography or filming will be allowed inside the polling stations so that the voters can "cast their votes freely".

Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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