Myanmar: EU officials hail elections, want larger Muslim role

10th Nov 2015
Myanmar: EU officials hail elections, want larger Muslim role
By Joshua Carroll

 

YANGON (AA): A team of European Union officials has hailed the Myanmar election process as going better than expected, but underlined that future polls could be improved by including more female and Muslim candidates.

While Chief Observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff told international media gathered at a press conference in Yangon on Tuesday that the poll was well organised and voters had a real choice between different candidates, other observers underlined difficulties.

“We trust that the newly-elected government will improve the democratic governance of the country and will promote a more inclusive society by addressing the increase in religious extremism and radical room and its impact on certain minorities and ethnic groups, in particular Muslim citizens, and specifically the Rohingya,” said European Parliament member Ana Gomes.

Dozens of Muslims were barred from running in the Nov. 10 election on dubious citizenship grounds, while hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were disenfranchised earlier this year.

Chief Observer Lambsdorff said the disenfrachisement of Rohingya was a social more than an electoral issue, and reflected a wider social problem that “the whole of Myanmar” needed to address.

The head of the EU team — in Myanmar to observe the voting and counting process — said that the country’s election commission had done a “good job overall” with a large majority — 95 percent — of the more than 500 stations observers had rated described as good or very good.

“We were impressed by peacefulness of the process. This is a remarkable process. It went better than many expected beforehand,” he added.

At midday Tuesday, of the 88 declared seats in the lower house Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had taken 78 with the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party winning just five.

Talking to the BBC, Suu Kyi congratulated the people of Myanmar and said the polls were not fair but had been “largely free”.

“The times are different, the people are different. I find the people are far more politicised now than they were back, not just in 1990, but much more politicised than they were in 2012, when we campaigned for the by-election, and very much more alert to what it going on around them,” she is reported to have said.

Of the Muslim population, she said “We will protect them,” adding that those who inflame hatred should face prosecution.

The NLD had failed to field a single Muslim candidate in the election because, as one official in the party had said, it feared angering an ultra-nationalist group of monks called Ma Ba Tha.

[Photo: Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of opposition party, National League of Democracy, who won the elections, at campaign rally, removed Muslim candidates for elections.Photographer: Alexandra Radu/A]

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