Election complainants risk jail term

Published: 17 November 2010
The Burmese junta has warned that anyone who files a complaint against the 7 November elections risks a three-year prison sentence.

It comes as the released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week sought the reinstatement of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which was disbanded after it refused to compete in the polls. The 65-year-old on Tuesday submitted an affidavit to the high court, which will be followed by a hearing expected to last 10 days.

Both the National Democratic Force (NDF) and the Democratic Party Myanmar (DPM), two of the major opposition parties to have taken part in the polls, have also voiced serious complaints about the electoral process.

But the junta mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, said today that accusations of fraud made through “foreign radio stations and print media” about the country’s first vote in 20 years “go against the Article 64 of the respective Election Laws”, and could result in punishment.

According to government website mrtv.net.mm, Article 64 reads: “Whoever is found guilty of dishonestly and fraudulently lodging any criminal proceedings against any person regarding offences relating to election shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or with fine not exceeding three hundred thousand kyats [$US300] or with both.”

The New Light continued that any complaint must therefore be made “in accordance with rules and regulations”.

Daw Than Than Nu, general secretary of the DPM, told DVB today that the party had had an internal meeting and is considering whether to sue over the results, which handed a landslide victory to the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

She said however that the party would have to raise 1,000,000 kyat ($US1000) for one complaint, while the defendant would also have to raise the same figure for the procedure to go through.

“And then after the hearing, if we lose we will be put behind bars for three years. That warning is not for a particular party, but for all parties,” she said, adding that her party had complaints for every one of the 47 constituencies it competed in.

The majority of fraud allegations have focused on the collection of advance votes, often done illegally and with apparently little scrutiny of the procedure. Than Than Nu claimed this problem, as well as the apparent deduction of hundreds of votes, scuppered any chances of success.

“Whatever we received they deduct as many as they like. The reason they give is that the voters put their tick in the wrong box.”

The allegations join a comprehensive list of misconducts that critics say fraudulently handed the USDP victory in many of the seats that were contested by the democratic parties. This yesterday led the Peace and Democracy Party to suggest that the USDP be abolished.

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