Myanmar: how to manipulate an election


An Election Commission employee makes final preparations at a polling station in Yangon on March 31, 2012.



We're more than halfway through Myanmar's big day -- an election hoped to prove the troubled nation can finally pull off a clean election -- and accusations of meddling are piling up.

The majority of the complaints are being lodged by the party unabashedly favored by Western powers, the National League of Democracy. Most outsiders are more familiar with the party's leader -- Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi -- than the party itself.

(For a primer on the polls, check out my piece on the elections' potential to erase sanctions and contributor Sebastian Strangio's excellent piece from the commerical capital Yangon on messianic reverence towards Aung San Suu Kyi.)

As I wrote this week, it's an unwritten rule that the US/UK/EU needs Aung San Suu Kyi to a) get elected and b) bless these elections as semi-legitimate before they start erasing sanctions against Myanmar.

If the ruling party is indeed allowing officials to tamper with elections -- or failing to stop them -- this is a highly dangerous game.

What are they accused of?

1. Election officials in various precincts are dripping wax on ballots to void votes, according to the National League for Democracy. (Source: DVB or Democratic Voice of Burma, an exile media outlet).

2. A polling station monitor with Aung San Suu Kyi's party was shooed away and told "you don’t need to know anything" by officials. (Source: DVB)

3. Thousands showing up to vote found their names missing from voter lists. (Source: exile media outlet The Irrawaddy)

This is just a sampling of the accusations.

The most damning assessment has come from Aung San Suu Kyi, who told reporters the election won't be "free or fair" (the US State Department's choice phrase) and that the tampering has been beyond what's acceptable.

The ruling party doesn't want the embarrassment of an all-out trampling by Aung San Suu Kyi.

But with so much at stake, is meddling really worth the risk?

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