Poll boycott ‘will prolong military rule’

Continued calls for Burmese to boycott the looming elections risk prolonging military rule in the country, state media has warned.

An article in the junta mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper yesterday said that foreign media and “illegitimate” organisations – a veiled reference to the disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) – “are abetting the people to oppose and boycott the election and dissuading them from voting”.

It said that the boycott campaign “[deals] a knockout blow to the multiparty democracy general election [sic]. There are many types of contradictions between the constructive and the destructive as well as the good and the bad”.

The NLD, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from competing in the polls, has been canvassing Burma in support of a boycott – it says that participating in the controversial elections on Sunday would be tantamount to endorsing military rule, which critics claim will continue under the guise of a civilian government.

But the newspaper said that if the boycott is successful and “election is abortive [sic], there will not be a government that is elected by the vote of the people.

“Then, the ruling government had no choice, but to keep taking State responsibilities till it holds another election. If so, it will take long. For instance, the National Convention comprising representatives of all walks of life took more than 10 years due to disruptions. Again, those elements are plotting to disrupt the election.”

The polls appear to have been carefully choreographed to ensure that only a cosmetic shift in power will occur, with the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) widely expected to win.

Nearly half a century of military rule has bought Burma to economic ruin, despite its vast wealth of natural resources. The article said that the rise of neighbouring countries, which have leapfrogged Burma in terms of development in recent decades, “is due to prioritizing national interest, not personality cult and dogmatism”.

The USDP have said that Burma must industrialise, but a study of each party’s economic policy has been conspicuously missing from coverage of the elections, which has focused largely on the controversies surrounding election laws.

As well as the inclusion of retired senior junta officials, the USDP is also bolstered by the presence of powerful business tycoon known to be close to the military generals.

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