Lists of eligible voters for Burma’s looming elections have been pinned on notice boards across the country, but opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s name is conspicuously absent.
The junta-appointed Election Commission (EC) has also been touring urban areas announcing the lists via loudspeakers, sources in Rangoon said, adding however that there was a sense of apathy among the people about Burma’s first polls in 20 years.
“We don’t even know who the candidates in our areas are, as it is yet to be announced,” said a Rangoon merchant. “There are just a lot of people like me – I’m not interested; I basically know that I will get to vote.”
The absence of Suu Kyi’s name from the voter list is the final nail in the coffin for the winner of the last elections in 1990: repressive election laws have barred the detained Nobel laureate from participating, and her spell under house arrest, which observers say is a deliberate ploy to keep her out of the political sphere, means she legally cannot vote.
Burma has around 30 million eligible voters out of a population of some 59 million, the government announced in July. Of these, 52 percent are in the 20-39 age range, the demographic most likely to cast votes, the immigration and population ministry said.
Nay Myo Wei, a candidate for the Diversity and Peace Party (DPP) in Rangoon’s Mingalardon and Insein townships, said that the party would wait until the full lists of voters are out before it plans what to do next. He is up against candidates from the junta backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National Unity Party (NUP), whose colossal membership base and eligible candidates make them the strongest contenders for the 7 November vote.
Also eyeing the elections is Zam Cin Ta, a candidate for the Chin National Party. He said that there are about 40,000 voters in his constituency, but only one seat for the 440-strong People’s Parliament, which has 110 seats already reserved for the military.
While his party ostensibly represents the interests of the people of Chin state in Burma’s northwest, locals there appear to share the disinterest voiced by some Rangoon residents.
“The names [of the voters] have been announced. As for us, it’s just like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said: we also have the right to not vote as well as the right to vote, and we are taking this [boycott] stance.”