Security Council urges inclusive and credible Myanmar referendum, elections

Security Council urges

inclusive and credible

Myanmar referendum, elections

UN News Service

 

  

 

 

  

 

  2 May 2008 – The Security Council today stressed the need for the upcoming referendum and elections in Myanmar to include the full participation of all political actors and respect for fundamental political freedoms.

In February authorities in the South-East Asian nation announced that a draft constitution will be put to voters in a national referendum in May, ahead of multi-party elections scheduled for 2010.

The Council underlined the need for the Government of Myanmar “to establish the conditions and create an atmosphere conducive to an inclusive and credible process,” in a statement read out by Ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for May.

“It further notes the commitment by the Government of Myanmar to ensure that the referendum process will be free and fair,” the statement added.

The Council also expressed its appreciation for the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, who has visited the country three times since last summer’s crackdown by the authorities on peaceful protesters, and is spearheading UN efforts to promote democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar.

Mr. Gambari recently stated that it is in Myanmar’s interest to ensure that its upcoming referendum and elections are as credible and inclusive as possible and to engage without delay in dialogue with the detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Sawers later told reporters that although today’s statement does not refer to Ms. Suu Kyi, it does reaffirm previous statements by the Council in which it mentions the need for Myanmar’s authorities to engage in a genuine dialogue with her and all concerned parties.

Briefing the press on the Council’s work for the month, he noted that the “centrepiece” of the UK presidency will be an open debate on post-conflict peacebuilding, to be chaired by Foreign Secretary David Miliband on 20 May.

“In the period immediately after peace agreement is achieved, there isn’t sufficient change in the lives of ordinary people, there’s not a re-establishment of security and far too many countries after conflict lapse back into conflict within five years of a peace agreement being reached,” he stated. “That’s partly because the international community does not have the capacity to quickly implement and follow through on peace agreements when they are reached.”

Mr. Sawers added that Council members will embark on 31 May for a 10-day visit to Africa, with scheduled stops in Kenya, Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Côte d’Ivoire.

 

Myanmar SPDC should espouse the Political maturity of Nepalese election

Myanmar SPDC should espouse the

Political maturity of Nepalese election

 

Excerpts from Syed Jaymal Zahiid’s article in Malaysiakioni

 

Nepal gave birth to the soul progenitor of one of the world’s most followed religions, Siddharta Gautama and Buddhism, ever conceive this poorest country by material standards to be so rich in its political culture.

Offered a position among five other Malaysian international observers with a regional Thailand-based poll watchdog Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel), I had the opportunity to surpass the stigmas and witness directly the mature state of political culture practiced by Nepalese in their historic constituency assembly (CA) elections.

War is over now. A comprehensive peaceful agreement was reached between the Maoists (now known as the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists or CPN-M) and the two major parties, Nepali Congress (Liberal democrats who headed the interim seven-party alliance government) and the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist-Leninists (CPN-UML) which is actually, ideologically a social democratic group.

 

It was a sight that reflected political maturity. Ideologies from the far left to the far right was seen free to contest in an equal playing field facilitated by the Nepalese Election Commission.

The Nepal EC’s integrity is unquestionable. Unlike Malaysia where its electoral regulators have suffered a major crisis of public confidence as it is pervasively seen as pro-status quo, the Nepal EC seems impeccable.

Observers from international groups like the European Union, Carter Center of United States of America, the British government and Anfrel all agreed that the Nepal EC functions with integrity. The Nepalese EC was professional and impartial when it comes to executing their tasks.

My arrival in the Nuwakot district, north of the city’s capital Kathmandu, was greeted with the coincidental encounter with thousands of supporters from the Maoists party rallying on the town’s main streets. Security personnel were present but they were there to protect the rally participants instead of cracking their skulls with batons.

The head security of the district known as the Chief District Officer (CDO) when met informed observers that mass rallies are permitted. A permit is not necessary for parties to organise mass rallies. They must however inform the CDO prior to the event and the CDO will consult with the EC officers on how to facilitate the wishes of the pleading party.

By this, observers witnessed a well coordinated regulation pertaining to campaigning to ensure that all parties receive fair and adequate space and time to express ideas. By this it meant that potential violent clashes between different party supporters had been constructively avoided without obstructing them from exercising their fundamental civil liberties.

Another interesting thing to note about Nepal in this particular elections is the practice of the parallel or known to them as the mixed election system. One is the ‘First-Past-The-Post’ system (the one practiced in Malaysia) and the proportional representative (PR) system.

 

PR system will ensure candidates contesting have support from all sectors (women, marginalised groups, youth and the elderly) of society. This is to guarantee that no sectors of the Nepalese society are left out from representation and that their voices and concerns will be mediated when the PR elected candidates convene to draft the country’s constitution.

As far as the electoral process is concerned, the measures introduced by the Nepalese EC mirrored an earnest effort to obviate manipulation. The usage of indelible ink faced no objections from all the parties involved.

Similarly in Malaysia, party agents were allowed to object to any suspicion of foul play. But Malaysia is rife with protests with regards to electoral rolls and registration problems every time it holds a general election. None of such irregularities were encountered in the polling centres throughout Nepal.

Nepal however suffers from tremendous backwardness in the technological sphere. This rendered voter registration process a total mess. Various instances of eligible voters not being able to vote due to the problems arising from the lack of technological resources.

The election materials (ballot boxes, indelible inks, etc) arrived to the rural areas by foot. People walked for miles and hours through cruel landscapes to the polling centres and did not complain about the government ban on public and private transportation (to prevent voters from other areas to vote outside their designated polling locations).

Many would, given the geographical conditions of Nepal, suggest postal voting but it was not accepted by the EC as they felt that the postal voting system can be easily manipulated in favour of the stakeholders.

Material poverty, political cultural wealth

The presence and acceptance of international election observers by the Nepalese government, political parties including the Maoists proved the country’s political will and seriousness to implement a free and fair elections.

Red flags of the Maoists numbering in thousands waved and hung alongside right-wing parties indicated a certain level of political maturity. It indicated the freedom enjoyed by the people to democratically choose any ideology, be it radical or conservative, without suppression or discrimination.

Observers, western or eastern alike, shared the absence of ethnic antagonism in their observation reports. Despite the high illiteracy rate of Nepal (40 percent) and the extremely low tertiary education graduates percentage (0.7 percent), racism was virtually not in the Nepalese vocabulary. Indo-Aryans alongside their Paharis to other smaller groups like Tharus and Dhimals had all voted according to ideologies brought by the political parties and not ethnicity.

Nepal is no Japan nor South Korea or even near Malaysia when it comes to material prosperity. But this country is as rich in its political culture as any developed democracy in commitment to implement an election system that guarantees the voice of the Nepalese people are properly represented in the construction of a new Nepal.

Can we say the same about Myanmar? (Note: I, SOA, changed the name of the country ) I leave it to the readers to decide. As for me, I am writing from Nepal with admiration and hope.