(Mizzima) – The winners and losers in the Burmese by-election on Sunday will be known about one week after the voting, says the Union Election Commission (UEC).
However, the EU again promised the public that the balloting would be free and fair.
Speaking to the press in Naypyitaw, Tin Aye, the EC chairman, said 159 international election observers would be allowed to watch the by-election process, but the media will not be allowed inside the voting area.
He said the press could witness the balloting from outside the voting area.
Tin Aye assured the media there would be no ballot stuffing or tinkering with the advanced voting ballots, as was charged by opposition groups and others during the 2010 election which was judged undemocratic by observers. The election in three constituencies in northernmost Kachin State – Mogaung, Bahmo and Phakant – will be postponed as announced earlier, he said. citing a lack of security in the area as the reason for the postponement. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization disputed the EC’s claim, saying the area was safe and the election should go ahead as scheduled.
The EC said a total of 157 candidates from 17 political parties would compete for open seats
Of the 157 candidates, 129 will contest for 37 seats in the Lower House while 22 candidates will compete for six seats in the Upper House. Six candidates will compete for two seats in regional or state parliaments.
Everyone is awaiting the results of the findings of the election monitors, who are being allowed to observe the polling in Burma for the first time since the new government came into power. Their findings and the comments of opposition political parties will determine the chances for the removal of more sanctions, as a reward for further movements toward democracy.
Voting observers from the U.S., the E.U., the U.N., Asean member countries and others have been invited, along with a contingent of media from each country.
By far, this will be the first time so many members of the foreign press have spread out through Burma to report on their findings, both about the election and otherwise.
Local journalists are also being encouraged to act as witnesses, to report on the voting and other matters. The problem, however, will remain: how much of the local media’s findings will be allowed to appear in print? Burma has strict prior-censorship review of all stories published in news media.
However, “This is a real difference between 2010 and this time,” Thiha Saw, editor of the Open News Weekly Journal, was quoted as saying by the BBC. “We are being allowed to look in any polling station in any constituency.”
The international media will throw a whole new spotlight on Burma, as reform-minded President Thein Sein is well aware.
“The attention of the whole world has focused on the by-elections,” he said in a speech this week broadcast to the nation, before urging all people and all parties to “respect the decision of the people.”