Myanmar bars 'outsiders' from polls

Authorities say observers and journalists from abroad will not be allowed to witness polls on November 7.

    Critcis say the polls in Myanmar will only strengthen the army's grip on power [EPA]

    Authorities in Myanmar have announced they will not allow foreign observers or international media into the country for next month's elections.

    However, Thein Soe, the election commission chief,  said that foreign diplomats and representatives from UN organisations based inside Myanmar would be allowed to observe voting on November 7.

    "We are holding the election for this country," Thein said in a briefing to diplomats and media in the capital on Monday. "It's not for other countries.... We will have credibility after holding the election in front of all the people."

    No photography

    Overseas journalists would not be allowed into Myanmar for the vote because foreign news agencies already have staff based there, Thein added.

    No photography or filming would be allowed inside the polling stations to enable voters to "cast their votes freely", he said.

    The curbs are certain to add to international concerns that the November polls will lack legitimacy, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi locked up and one quarter of the seats in parliament reserved for the military.

    Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and activists and Western governments say the elections are aimed at simply entrenching the generals' hold on power.

    More than 29 million people - roughly half the official population - will be eligible to cast a ballot, with 3,071 candidates from 37 parties contesting the vote.

    Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has been dissolved by the authorities because it chose to boycott next month's vote, saying the rules were unfair.  

    The junta's proxy parties are seen as having a major advantage in the contest for the remaining seats.  

    Suu Kyi's party won the last election in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, and the democracy icon has spent most of the past two decades in detention.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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