Voters in Karen State will have five political parties to choose from in the national elections to be held on 7 November 2010.
The parties are the Union Solidarity Development Party, the National Unity Party, the Karen State Democracy and Development Party all of whom have strong links to the military regime. The other two parties are the Karen People Party from Rangoon and the local community based Plone-S’gaw Democratic Party.
In Karen State the KPP will only contest in two electorates, Thandaung and Kyain Seikgyi.
The USDP leader, Thein Sein, is the military regime’s current Prime Minister and a former senior military officer, the NUP is led by Tun Yi, a former army chief-of-staff and the KSDDP was launched by the regime’s current Information Minister, who is also holds the rank of general. The KPP leaders are Saw Tun Aung Myint, a retired navy commander and a Rangoon based surgeon, Dr Simon Thar, both men are regarded by opposition groups as regime supporters. The KPP are seen as strong advocates for the regimes much criticized Constitution that guarantees the military 25 per cent of electorates and effectively banned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in the election.
The only political party without close regime connections and contesting the election in Karen State is the PSDP. The PSDP chairperson, Saw Khin Maung Myint, is a former local schoolteacher and was nominated by Karen a diverse range of religious leaders, including Buddhist, Animist and Christian.
A United Nations population map of Karen State estimates the population as 1,324, 504, it is unknown what percentage of people are eligible to vote.
Karen State has seven electorates and four parties, USDP, NUP, KSDDP and PSDP will contest in all seven, except for Thandaung and Kyain Seikgyi where KPP will run candidates.
Karen Information Centre journalists spoke to Karen voters to gauge their reactions to the election and what issues are of concern to them.
What the people say…
Kawkreik, is one of the seven Karen State electorates that will be contested in the 2010 election, most of the people are farmers.
Naw Htoo, 40, a mother of two children is from Maw Ker village, Kawkriek township in Karen State says she is more concerned about her daily hardships than the elections.
“My family mainly earns a living by farming, this year because of the lack of rain our farm is not that good. We are concerned about our food supplies for the coming year.”
Naw Htoo says she has not yet received any voting information from the government, but is not hesitant in putting her view on what the election mean to her.
“We know there will be elections in Burma this year, but we don’t know what it is all about. We’ve also heard that we have to vote but we don’t know who to vote for. We don’t even know why we have to vote. We don’t know when we have to do the voting, we only listen to our village head. We also don’t know if this election is going to benefit us. We are not interested. If we were ordered to vote, we will fulfill our responsibility. Our villagers can’t do anything. When we’re told to die, we have to die and when we are told to live, we will live…”
KIC spoke to two voters from Myawaddy, who said they feared the election result would not result in the peoples’ choice taking power. They said they wanted political representatives they voted for to lead the country and a return to the military who stole their votes in 1990.
Burma needs fixing…
Ma Cho, 54, is from Thingannyinaung village. She is married with children. Ma Cho says even if she votes she thinks she will be told how and who to vote for by election officials.
“In 1990 I voted but I never found out who won. They set up four vote [ballot] boxes, white and black. The election commission told me to put my vote in the white box.
I haven’t heard anything about this election in Burma. My family are ordinary people and don’t have a time to think about elections. A few months ago they came and took our family registration and said those who don’t have ID cards can now get it for free. In Burma we need to pay for everything – health, education and transport. Nothing is free for us. Burma is poor.
I don’t know how to vote and who is it better to vote for. I want a good leader and they need to improve all things in Burma. Burma needs to start to repair everything.”
I want my vote to count…
Oo Htain, 70, from Myawaddy, has two daughters and seven sons. In Burma we have to pay for everything. If we are sick we can’t get treatment and we never get better. I have been blind and tried to get treatment in Myawaddy many times but the doctor told me I will be a blind man forever. I arrived in Mae Tao Clinic in early August and received good treatment. My right eye was operated on. Now I can see. I am very happy. In 1990 I voted for the NLD party and even though they won I didn’t see them become our leader. The military government took control. I voted for good people but I got a bad leader. I don’t think his election is going to be good and fair. If I need to vote I want to vote for a person who will be a good leader and the leader who will think for us. I am worries the military will be back again. They took off their army uniform but we can’t stop them.”
I won’t be voting it’s only for show …
Poo Poo, 20, is from Pa-an Township and she says “I will not vote for any party. In the end they [regime] will change the votes to suit them. They will manipulate the result to suit themselves. It’s only a show in front of the people. The government should be easing the hardship of the people. They [regimes] have to create jobs and graduates need work opportunities. I am in my final year when we graduate there is no work for us. We have to leave the country to find jobs. The new government needs to focus on the economy. We don’t have reliable electricity. Our roads are bad and need repairing”.
The people don’t support it…
Saw Laite Thait, 59, a professional singer, from Pa-an says he voted in the 1990 election and says the people participated and supported it.
“This election is not off the people and they are against it. But compared with no election this is still better. A new government will be formed. As I am Karen and if I’m voting I will vote for the PSDP. If they win it will be easier for Karen to take their concerns to them than to other parties. Our local roads are bad, our schools have to be repaired by us, our clinic has no medicine, only a medic and our sick have to travel for treatment. We only get two to three days of electricity a month but we have still have to pay for it. Students have to pay for tuition, if they don’t they get a limited education. If the young are not educated there is no development and the country goes backward. After the elections the new government will have to address all these needs. The government should support the citizens, not hold them back.”
I don’t understand…
Saw Peter, 20, a student from Pa-an Township says he has does not have any experience of what he has in do in an election.
“I have no election experience. I don’t understand which the parties are, but I do know I want equal rights. I want poor people to get support from the government. If I vote I won’t vote [regime] for their party. I don’t understand the process but this government has to give freedom to people. I want living costs, jobs, roads, education, electricity and water supply to improve. I’m undecided about voting.”
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