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Myanmar polls are flawed, warn observers

People passing by a campaign truck on the outskirts of Yangon on Thursday. Myanmar's main city is poised to go to the polls on December 27 for the first municipal vote in six decades. (AFP)

December 26, 2014

YANGON: Myanmar’s main city is poised to go to the polls Saturday for the first municipal vote in six decades, but observers warn the process is riddled with flaws and could cast a shadow over crucial 2015 general elections.

For many the ballot in Yangon, home to more than five million people, will offer the first taste of voting under the country’s quasi-civilian government and a rare chance to steer the direction of its biggest commercial hub.

But there are fears the election for the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), which comes just months before next year’s landmark vote in the former junta-ruled nation, is falling far short of democratic norms with strict curbs on who can vote, as well as who can stand, among the clauses causing concern.

“It will be unfair, but I am taking part anyway,” said Win Cho, a political activist who registered to stand in the city’s western district just days after being released from a jail term for protesting without permission.

“If we do not take part, we can’t do anything for the people,” he told AFP. The polls mark only the second major vote since 2010 general elections, which were marred by widespread accusations of cheating and the absence of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition.

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