Aung San Suu Kyi: Burma election not 'free and fair'

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi: "What has been happening in this country is really beyond what is acceptable"

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken of irregularities ahead of Sunday's by-election.

Speaking ahead of the 1 April vote, she said the election campaign could not be considered ''genuinely free and fair''.

But the Nobel laureate said she was ''determined to go forward'' and did not regret taking part in the poll.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) party head is expected to win her seat in Kawhmu, south-west of Rangoon.

In a press conference, Aung San Suu Kyi said the irregularities went "beyond what is acceptable for democratic elections".

In the constituency she is contesting, the names of hundreds of deceased had been listed on the electoral roll, while those of more than 1,300 people eligible to vote were missing, her party said.

Ms Suu Kyi also cited cases of intimidation and vandalism of campaign materials.

"Still we are determined to go forward because this is what our people want," she said. "We don't at all regret having taking part."

Foreign observers

At the scene

Despite her reservations, Aung San Suu Kyi is still confident her party will win a large number of the seats on offer.

But, she said, her greatest triumph had been in using the campaign to raise the political awareness of the Burmese people.

Referring to her recent ill health, which forced her to cancel her final campaign trips, Ms Suu Kyi said she was still feeling delicate, before adding jokingly that if the questions asked by journalists were too tough she might faint.

After almost two hours standing in the heat, there was absolutely no sign of that.

The by-election is being seen as a milestone in Burma's journey towards political reform.

This is the first election since the military-backed civilian government assumed power a year ago.

The vote will fill 45 parliamentary seats left vacant when cabinet members and deputy ministers assumed their posts.

It also marks the first time foreign election observers have been allowed in the country.

A small number of representatives from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), along with the European Union and United States, have been invited to observe polling.

More than 100 foreign journalists are believed to have received permission to cover the voting in the country.

The by-election will also be the first time that Ms Suu Kyi will participate in an election.

She was under house arrest in 1990 when her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won the election by a landslide. It was not allowed to take power.

Burma by-election 1 April 2012

  • At least 45 seats are being contested by 176 candidates from 17 parties, with eight independents
  • The Lower House has 440 seats (330 elected), the Upper House 224 seats (168 elected) and the regional assemblies 14, with 25% of the seats appointed by the military
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is seeking a seat in Kawhmu district south of Rangoon
  • Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is contesting all seats
  • By-election fills vacancies of those elected in 2010 polls who became ministers and deputy ministers

The NLD boycotted the 2010 election that saw the military-backed civilian administration of President Thein Sein replace the military junta, because of election laws it said were unfair.

Ms Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November 2010, shortly after that election.

She is seeking office in the rural township of Kawhmu. It was one of the areas hit hard by Cyclone Nargis, which left at least 138,000 people dead in the Rangoon region and Irrawaddy delta in 2008.

The by-election will almost certainly see her take a seat in parliament and her party, the National League for Democracy, become the official opposition.

It comes amid a process of reform in Burma that has seen Western nations re-engage with the formerly military-ruled nation and some sanctions eased.

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