5 November 2010
In 1989 the ruling junta took a pasting during the last election held in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy garnered 80% of the popular vote. However Burma's generals had no desire to give up their privileged position, and simply cancelled the election result, imprisoning many of the newly elected MPs, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
This weekend another election will take place in Burma, and the generals have no intention of losing this time round either. The elections rules laid down by the military virtually guarantee them a win. A quarter of the seats have already been allocated to the military, and many former junta generals and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) are now standing as civilian politicians for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
For many years the UDSA has functioned as a paramilitary organisation, akin to Hitler's "brownshirts". In Burma the UDSA members are known as "whiteshirts", and they have been used to carry out acts of violence in order to establish a firm grip over all facets of Burmese society. Now the whiteshirts look like becoming the new face of Burma's dictatorship. The USDA has trained villagers to form people's militias, and encouraged a culture of lawlessness and thuggish behaviour, particularly among the youth members. This has led to several violent attacks on members of the pro-democracy movement, including the notorious 2003 Depayin Massacre - a brutal attack on Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her convoy, in which seventy people were killed and hundreds injured.
So, despite the military's repeated pledges for a "free and fair" election, election monitoring - based on EU and UN guidelines - points to the contrary. The junta election laws and conduct of the junta's Election Commission have caused the dissolution of parties that won 84% of seats in the last election. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention until after the November 7 election.