The legitimacy of the 2010 election rests on more than just the release of political prisoners and allowing the opposition to participate

Free and Fair?

Burma’s ruling junta has recently been under pressure by a skeptical international community to verify its claims that it has put into place “free and fair” conditions for next year’s election.

The baseline indicators of a credible electoral process, observers say, are: the release of all political prisoners, including the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi; and allowing all stakeholders to participate in the election. At the UN General Assembly in New York in September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made clear to Burma’s Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein that the onus was on the Burmese government to create the necessary conditions for credible and inclusive elections and to initiate a dialogue with the opposition.

While the urgency of the country’s political reconciliation has long been a first priority, few Burma watchers have to date raised concerns on a number of critical issues related to the election process that can directly affect the environment of a free and fair election.

For example, in a meeting with Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on the sidelines of the Asean summit earlier this year, Thein Sein said that the regime will allow UN officials and developing countries to observe the general election.

But to ensure a free and fair election, the existence of independent foreign election monitors must be in place across the country at the outset of the election campaign period.

Free and Fair?

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