Saturday, August 22, 2009

Elections in 2010 ‘opportunity for change’: ICG

by Mungpi
Friday, 21 August 2009 19:14

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Widespread criticism of the Burmese military junta’s proposed elections in 2010, notwithstanding the International Crisis Group said it is a chance for “possibilities of change” and urged the government, the opposition, neighbours and the wider international community not to “squander” the chance.

The ICG, in a new report released on Thursday said though the elections might not be free and fair, it could change the political landscape of Burma and bring about a possibility of change as the generals currently ruling the country might step down or move to ceremonial roles.

“All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government towards reform and reconciliation,” the report, titled “Myanmar: Towards the Elections” said.

Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director said, while the military junta presumably wants to use the elections to ensure its continued dominance, the 2010 election is the most wide-ranging shake-up in a generation and all stake holders should be prepared for the possibility of change.

The group said, boycotting or opposing the election could mean playing into the hands of the military government, since it would not prevent the election from taking place and would mainly deprive non-government candidates of votes, potentially narrowing the range of voices in future legislatures.

The group said instead of boycotting or opposing the election, opposition groups including the NLD should encourage the broadest possible participation in the election process, even if individual parties or organisations choose not to participate.

The NLD in their “Shwegonedine” declaration in May states that it will only take part if the government revises the 2008 constitution and makes amendments, and is allowed the freedom to organise.

The group, however, urges the Burmese junta to release political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi and to desist from further arrest of political activists. And to promulgate fair administrative laws and regulations relating to the conduct of election and to allow international and domestic observers in the process of election.

The recent trial and sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to a further 18 months in detention has further “undermined the credibility of the political process as the country moves towards elections next year,” Giacoma told Mizzima on Friday.

He said, while the elections will not be free and fair, the Burmese authorities must make the electoral process more credible by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and allow them to participate fully in the electoral process.

He further said, “politically-motivated arrests must cease. It also wanted key electoral legislation be promulgated as soon as possible, in a way that allows parties to register without undue restriction, gives space for canvassing activities and ensures transparent counting of votes.”

The ICG’s report comes amidst increasing pressure and frustration over the Burmese junta’s sentencing of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which is read by the opposition as a clear indication of the junta’s unwillingness to implement change.

The ICG’s Asia Program Director, Robert Templer, in a press statement, however, said, while the elections are unlikely to be free and fair and all changes are not likely to be positive, the international community should not let justified outrage over the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy’s suppression prevent it from looking for opportunities to influence events.

“Ultimately, it is Myanmar’s [Burmese] people who have paid the biggest price for the political deadlock. As Myanmar [Burma] prepares for this transition, all sides should be alert to the new opportunities as well as risks that may be present,” Templer said.