Voting for Burma’s elections today has finished, with reports of a moderate turnout emerging from the military-ruled country.
The day appeared to get off to a slow start, with ballot stations opening at 6am. One DVB reporter in Rangoon said this morning that the “streets were empty”, while Britain’s ambassador to Burma, Andrew Heyn, said that the atmosphere in the former capital was relatively low-key, with shops and internet cafes closed.
Outside the office of the National League for Democracy, whose boycott of the elections led to its dissolution, a banner read “Only five days more – the lady will be released” – a reference to the pending release date of opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi on 13 November.
Estimates of the voter turnout have varied from 45 percent to 60 percent of the 29 million people eligible to participate. Attendance at polling stations “was light”, according to AP. “Some residents said they were staying home as rumours circulated that bombs would explode,” it added.
Security was tight in Rangoon, with a special unit of police seen wearing red neckties and vests emblazoned with “Terrorist Squad” loitering outside of one polling booth.
Official results are yet to come through, and the ruling junta has not announced when the outcome will be declared. It is rumoured however that the leader of the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF), Khin Maung Swe, won his Rangoon constituency.
Reports from eastern Burma’s Shan state say that 124 voters showed up in Langkho town’s of Ban Pao district, and the majority voted in favour of the opposition Shan Nationalities Development Party, despite facing stiff competition from the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
“I’m Shan and am elderly”, one lady from Namhsan told DVB. “I’m so frustrated with what I’ve witnesses in politics. Being Shan ethnic, we will only vote for the ‘White Tiger’ [SNDP] party. It’s only natural to love your own ethnic people.”
In Mandalay’s Myingyan town less than a third of the population voted, reports claim, adding that many had been forced to vote in advance for the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
One of the biggest pieces of news however came from eastern Burma, where a breakaway army of Karen troops took control of key military posts in Myawaddy following rumours that Burmese troops had threatened voters at gunpoint.