This is a big month for elections. Yesterday, Burmese went to the polls to cast a ballot in a bogus election–their first in 20 years. Susan Rice said the elections were “neither free nor fair, neither credible nor legitimate.” And the main opposition figure remains under house arrest. More from Susan Rice:
Yet again, the Burmese regime has missed a critical opportunity to move toward democracy and improve the lives of the Burmese people. Instead, the entire election process was flawed and failed to reflect the will of the people of Burma. The regime chose to deprive Burmese of the basic freedoms that underpin any democratic election — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom from intimidation. Most egregiously, the regime prevented the participation of the more than 2,100 political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Harsh words. But not exactly undeserved. If you are looking for a potential bright side of the bogus elections, check out this post.
In the meantime, Guineans took to the polls for the first time in 50 years. The United States and France put out a rare joint statement, calling for the elections to go forward without hindrance. We turn to Penelope for insights into the significance of yesterday’s balloting:
On Sunday November 7, will be remembered as a historical day for Guinea. This vote, though, will have been marked by turmoil. The events leading up to this election – the take-over by the military junta in late 2008; the junta leader’s failure at governing the country; ongoing violence and political wrangling have made this transition to democracy a complicated, precarious one.
Guineans will vote for one of two candidates: Cellou Dallein Diallo, the 58-year-old leader of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea who was the country’s prime minister from 2004 to 2006, and veteran opposition leader and president of the Rally of the Guinean People party, Alpha Conde. Both candidates belong to two majority ethnic groups with a history of animosity: Diallo is Peul (sometimes known as Fulani, who make up about 40% of the country’s population), and Conde a Malinke (about 35% of the population is Malinke.) The tensions between these groups stretch back to the time when Guinea’s first post-independence leader, Sekou Toure – a Malinke – feared a Peul plot against him: thousands were arrested, jailed in a gulag in Conakry, or assassinated.