Burma warns against poll boycott

Image caption,
Burma is holding its first elections in 20 years on Sunday

State media in Burma has urged people to cast their ballots "without fail" in Sunday's polls, warning against a boycott.

Voting was a "national duty", the reports said, and calls for people to refrain from voting should be ignored.

One commentary went further, suggesting the military could remain in power if voter turn-out was not deemed adequate.

The elections will be the first to be held in the military-ruled nation for two decades.

The junta says the polls will mark a democratic transition from military to civilian rule - and wants a strong turn-out.

But critics say the elections are a sham aimed at further entrenching military rule albeit in a civilian mask.

The main pro-democracy party, led by detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is not taking part.

'Remain in charge'

In recent days a number of articles have appeared in state-run media telling Burmese people to vote in the 7 November polls.

"Every citizen who values democracy and wants democratic rule must cast their votes without fail," said an editorial in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Sunday.

"However, some people are inciting the people to refrain from voting in the elections. They are attempting to mislead the people who are walking along the road to multi-party democracy," it said.

On Monday a commentary that ran in all state-controlled newspapers went further.

"If the election is aborted (by voters) there will not be a government that's elected by vote of the people," it said.

"The ruling government would have no choice but to remain in charge of state security until it holds another election. If so, this will take a long time."

The two junta-linked parties are fielding by far the largest number of candidates.

The National League for Democracy - which won the last polls in 1990 but was never allowed to take power - has been forced to disband after it said it was not participating because of laws which banned Ms Suu Kyi from taking part.

Other parties that are contesting the polls have struggled to fund campaigns and have complained of harassment.

Foreign journalists and observers will not be allowed into the country for the election.

Recent reports from Burma say that internet service has become erratic in what some believe is an attempt by the junta to restrict communications over the poll period.