New Delhi (Mizzima) – The following is the second in a series on opinions collected from a cross-section of Burmese society, inside and outside the country, on the nation’s political climate and the upcoming national elections. Mizzima reporters chose the subjects at random.
Although the election is a mere 20 days away, the majority of those interviewed were unable to say for which party they would vote, with many citing a lack of electoral information as the cause.
“Myint Thein Win [a diplomatic official] did not tell me to vote. I don’t know whether I can vote or not but I think I don’t have time … Anyway, I’ll vote via the postal service. I’m a Burmese citizen, so I must vote.”
“I don’t have up-to-date information … I’m a businessman so I’m not interested in the election. I don’t know what the political parties are. When the embassy sends the information, I’ll know how many parties I can vote for. At that time, I’ll choose one.”
Young Burmese migrant worker, Singapore
“The embassy has not told us about the election although it is coming nearer so I’m not ready. All I do is read the news. I don’t know how to vote. I don’t know which party does which activity. I need to know what the political parties [will] do. I don’t even know how many parties will contest the election.”
Resident, Insein Township, Rangoon
“The authorities announced that we could check the list of eligible voters and if our names were not on the list, we could complain. That’s all. I don’t know anything else. Actually, I’m not interested in the election. The winners will become our government. We will respect them. When I go to the polling station on election day, I’ll know how to vote. State-run TV also demonstrates how to vote. The political parties gave promises to persuade people but different people have their own preferences.”
Female resident, Ward 12, Hlaing Township, Rangoon Division
“The political parties have distributed their pamphlets but they didn’t deliver speeches. I’ve got the pamphlets from the Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP] and 88 Generation Student Youths but I’m still lacking electoral information. I don’t know who will stand in my constituency. The list of eligible voters has not been posted in our ward so I don’t know whether I’m eligible to vote … I’m interested in the election. The only sources of electoral information I can get are newspapers and journals, and I watch the state-media canvassing of the political parties in which I’m interested. My favourite party is the White Tiger [Shan Nationalities Democratic Party] because I’m Shan, but the White Tiger will not contest in Rangoon, I’ll vote for the National Democratic Force [NDF party]”.
Agricultural student, California, United States
“We are not informed about voting but I don’t think I’ll vote … The election will not be free or fair. Only the USDP has big political favour. Other parties do not have the right to conduct campaigns freely so whether I vote or not, I’m sure the USDP will win. The authorities never respect the people. That’s why I don’t want to vote.”
“We’ve already voted in advance. We have to vote for three candidates. I voted for a candidate of my ethnic party and two USDP candidates. Before we went to Moscow to vote, student leaders explained how … I had to fill my name and address and … mark ticks for the parties I liked. In front of the ballot box, a man stood guard.”
Female art dealer, Mandalay
“I didn’t watch political parties’ canvassing on state media. I don’t understand them and I don’t know which party I should vote for so I’ve decided not to vote. I don’t know who is who. My friends, too! I’m from a rural area and my shop and home are in different townships. So if the USDP [members] told me to vote for them in the township where my shop is located, I’ll tell them I’ll vote in the township where my house is located. Similarly, if the head of my ward tells me to vote, I will say I’ve voted in the township where my shop is. I don’t want to vote because I don’t understand politics. Still, I’m interested in the election because it’s the national election of my country. My friends also don’t understand the election”