Posts Tagged ‘elections’
What’s Next for Burma Opposition After Elections? – TIME
Last Updated on Monday, 8 November 2010 06:26 Written by admin Monday, 8 November 2010 06:26
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Polling stations were set up across Burma for an electorate of 29 million people, and candidates from 37 parties contested the Nov. 7 elections. But despite the trappings of political openness, the country’s first elections in two decades were hardly an exercise in democracy. As the first election results trickled in, the victors predictably predominated from one party, whose logo is an all-powerful lion: the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the proxy for a military regime that, in one form or another, has brutally ruled Burma, which it calls Myanmar, for nearly five decades.
Local sources described the mood on election day in Rangoon, the country’s commercial capital and largest city, as unnaturally quiet. There were few lines at polling stations, said on-the-ground witnesses, a sign that a significant portion of the electorate had chosen not to vote. It was not clear, however, whether the limited balloting was due to a belief that the electoral results had been preordained by the ruling junta or whether they were due to a boycott call by the popular National League for Democracy (NLD), the country’s main political opposition party that disbanded itself instead of contesting polls that were so obviously skewed in the military’s favor. (See pictures of Burmese youth.)
Because of numerous campaign restrictions and hefty registration fees, the leading opposition party, an NLD breakaway group called the National Democratic Force (NDF), could only muster 164 parliamentary contenders. By contrast, the USDP and the National Unity Party (NUP), another military-backed party, each fielded around 1,000 candidates. In sum, even if all democratic opposition candidates are declared victorious a practical impossibility given voter intimidation and irregularities they still would not outnumber pro-government forces in parliament. U.S. President Barack Obama characterized the polls as “anything but free and fair,” adding “for too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny.”
Indeed, even before a single vote was cast, the polls were hampered by a host of roadblocks. Around 1 million voters were disenfranchised when the junta decided in the weeks leading up to the election to cancel the polls in regions where ethnic minorities have been at odds with the central government. The regime conveniently decided to reserve one-quarter of parliamentary seats and many top ministerial posts for military appointees. The junta’s proxy USDP freely spent millions of dollars of state funds on campaigning, even as one-third of Burma lives under the poverty line. Not only did the army’s party have the bully pulpit of the state-run media at its disposal, but its ranks were packed with a host of recently retired generals whom voting against could be a fearsome prospect for many cowed Burmese. By contrast, many of the most well-known members of the country’s political opposition were barred from taking part in the polls by a series of arcane electoral laws. The most notable missing candidate was detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose NLD had won the last balloting in 1990, only to have the military ignore the election results. (Some 2,100 political prisoners are still languishing in Burmese jails.)
Those opposition parties that did take part, including the NDF and a host of ethnically based parties, had even more to complain about come election day. Half a dozen parties presented evidence of civil servants being forced to vote for the USDP, while many thousands of voters were compelled to participate in advance voting that makes it easier for officials to commit electoral fraud. Some voters, especially those planning to cast their ballots for the opposition, turned up at polling stations only to find their names mysteriously missing from electoral rolls. “I looked and looked but my name was not there,” says one Rangoon resident. “I don’t think it was a mistake.” (Read TIME’s cover story on Burmese youth.)
In both southeast Mon State and northeastern Shan state, where ethnic minorities abound, ethnic parties accused polling officials of taking illiterate voters’ ballots and filling them out in support of the USDP. “This was an election in name only,” says one Western diplomat. “We all know what the results will be, so no one’s holding their breath.” (A small group of diplomats taken on a stage-managed tour of polling stations by Burmese government officials included an envoy from North Korea, hardly the most qualified individual to conduct election monitoring.)
As flawed as the election may have been, there may be some cause for guarded optimism. By Monday afternoon, Khin Maung Swe, spokesman for the NDF, said he believed that at least 10 NDF candidates had won their races, including several in Rangoon constituencies. However, mysterious boxes filled with advance votes heavily favoring the USDP had been tallied the previous night in some areas, turning earlier counts favoring the NDF upside down. The government-controlled election commission has not bothered to tell the opposition parties when they will be announcing the official results. Still, the NDF leader remains hopeful, despite talk about a possible boycott of election results if they stray too far from what opposition parties believe are the expected returns. “In the tea shops or on the street, it is impossible to criticize the government,” he told TIME, as he fielded updates on the vote counts. “But in parliament, even if we have only have one or two people in place, we can speak out on behalf of the people and make our criticisms publicly.”
In ethnic minority areas where votes were not denied and where sentiment against the exclusively ethnically Burman (or Bamar) junta is overflowing parties representing ethnic groups like the Arakan (or Rakhine), the Shan and the Mon have expressed confidence in a strong showing by their candidates, particularly in the regional assemblies that are supposed to make policy on a local level. Indeed, even if only a small corps of opposition MPs ends up serving in the grandiose legislature recently built in the junta’s new capital Naypyidaw, it will be an improvement over the current situation, in which the military rules with no check on its power. Says one local observer: “As rigged as the elections [were], and as limited access to decision-making elected MPs may have, the ongoing political process [is] the only way out of the crisis that has afflicted the country.” A report published on Monday by a local organization that monitored 159 polling stations agreed: “While this election clearly fell short of international standards, it marks an important step forward towards a more democratic state. Political parties and voters are well aware that the playing field for this election was not level but many have decided to take advantage of the small window of political space that has opened.” (Comment on this story.)
Meanwhile, as the votes are still being counted fairly or unfairly Burma is gearing up for another possible political milestone. On Nov. 13, the latest term of house arrest will expire for democracy icon Suu Kyi. The daughter of Aung San, Burma’s assassinated independence hero, Suu Kyi is beloved by the Burmese people yet she has spent most of the past two decades in detention. On previous occasions when Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, she has dived right back into politics at considerable personal risk. In 2003, army-backed thugs killed dozens of her supporters while she was out mingling with Burmese citizens in the town of Depayin. Through intermediaries, the 65-year-old Suu Kyi has sent signals that if she is released again she will re-immerse herself in politics anew, even expressing an interest in opening a Twitter account. But this time, the noble dissident known in Burma as “the Lady,” has no formal political mantle to claim as the winner of the ignored 1990 polls. Her NLD party has been dissolved for boycotting the Nov. 7 elections a decision that came at Suu Kyi’s behest. What can she offer to move her beleaguered nation forward? Perhaps more than the election results themselves, it is what the Lady will say that Burma is really waiting to hear.
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Midterm elections: The morning after – CNN International
Last Updated on Wednesday, 3 November 2010 07:05 Written by admin Wednesday, 3 November 2010 07:05
- Harry Reid says he’s ready to compromise
- Tea Party-backed S.C. governor-elect says people found ‘power of their voice’
- Indiana congressman intends to gut Obama’s health care policy
(CNN) — Here’s what you need to know right now about election results, their impact and how politicians are reacting:
Reid ready to compromise
Having survived a strong re-election challenge and seen the Democratic majority in the Senate slip to one, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’s eager to work with Republicans to craft legislation and create jobs.
“It’s important we realize we have some work to do,” Reid said on CNN’s “American Morning.” “… We need to stop using words like ‘chastened’ and I think what we have to do is recognize that all of us, all of us who are going to be in Senate, have to work together. That’s the message from the American people.
“We must work together, and I am looking forward to that. … I think this is a time we need to set aside our speeches and start rolling up our sleeves and have a little sweat on our brow.”
Reid said both parties need to give a little.
“We know that the Republicans of this last Congress picked up the name ‘The Party of No.’ I think that Democrats have to work with Republicans, and Republicans have to work with Democrats. It’s not a one-sided deal,” he said.
Reid identified job creation as his top legislative priority.
“As far as I’m concerned, my No. 1 job is to help create jobs, and I’m going to do everything I can. The only thing that’s going to solve our economic problems in this country are jobs, jobs and more jobs.”
A big question the next Congress will deal with is whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and/or make other changes to the tax code.
“I want to do everything I can to make sure those tax cuts remain in place,” he said. “I’m not awkward, I’m not bullheaded, I’m willing to work with my Republican colleagues on a way to get this done.”
Repeal of the health care reform legislation — a key promise of many Republican candidates just elected — is not an option, Reid said.
“The health care bill is very important,” he said. “I wish the Republicans had worked with us when we did the health care bill. If there’s some tweaking we need to do with the health care bill, I’m ready for some tweaking. But I’m not in any way going to denigrate the great work we did as a country in saving America from bankruptcy, because the insurance industry bankrupted us.”
Nikki Haley vows to make more history
Nikki Haley, the first woman elected governor of South Carolina and the first woman of Indian descent elected governor of any state, said she hopes to really make history with the work that begins in January.
Haley, a Republican state representative, defeated Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen after a bitter campaign.
“This was people finding the power of their voice,” Haley said on “American Morning.” “This was people saying, ‘We want government to remember who it is that they work for. We want government to know the value of a dollar, and we want jobs and the economy to come first.’ This was all about the people saying, ‘We’ve had enough.’”
Haley, who enjoyed strong support from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, said government will stick to the basics under her administration.
“We look at the fact that government was intended to secure the rights of the people; it was never intended to be all things to all people,” Haley said.
“And certainly, when you give a man a job you give a man pride. We’re going to give a lot of pride to the state of South Carolina.”
She said she hoped her Indian heritage makes people proud but doesn’t want that to be her legacy.
“As historic as I think a lot of observers are going to say this is, I hope what’s historic is the work that we do in January and the things we get done in the first year of our Haley administration. …
“We’re proud for the women in this country. We’re proud for the Indian-American community. We’re proud for our families. But most importantly we’re proud for the state of South Carolina.”
Indiana’s Pence wants to ‘rip up’ health care act
Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, who last night won his sixth consecutive term in office, said he saw the Republican victories as a direct message from the American people.
“I think the message coming out of last night’s historic election is the American people want to see an end to the federal runaway with money and government takeovers,” he said.
Pence also said he and the rest of the Republican Party are excited “to be worthy of the second chance the American people have given us.”
And he pointed at President Obama’s health care policy as part of the reason for the Republican gains Tuesday night.
“Obamacare was roundly rejected. We need to rip it up, root and branch,” he said. “The American people don’t want to be mandated to purchase health insurance. … They don’t want all the new taxes that come with it.”
And he said Republicans won’t just repeal the health care legislation, they’ll replace it with a lower-cost option that Americans want.
Still, he said, last night wasn’t just entirely about the Republicans, it was about their supporters who demanded their voices be heard.
“I don’t see last night so much as a victory for one party or another,” he said. “I see it as a victory for the American people. And I think they are going to stay engaged in this process.”
When it comes down to it, Pence told CNN, loosening the government’s role was the key to getting the country back on track.
“You get government out of control, you get government out of the way, and the economy will come roaring back,” he said.
Americans Vote in Congressional Elections – Voice of America
Last Updated on Tuesday, 2 November 2010 04:04 Written by admin Tuesday, 2 November 2010 04:04
02 November 2010
Americans are voting Tuesday in midterm congressional elections that experts say will probably give Republicans control of at least one chamber of Congress.
President Barack Obama left the last day of campaigning to the candidates Monday, returning to the White House after a campaign blitz through critical battleground states, to await what could be a dismal outcome for his Democratic party.
A new poll Monday indicated that Republicans have a more commanding lead than either party has had before a midterm vote since 1974. The USA Today/Gallup survey said 55 percent of the 1,500 people asked say they plan to support Republicans in the elections.
Analysts are expecting Republicans to make enough gains to take control of the House of Representatives, but to fall short of winning a majority in the Senate. Democrats currently control both houses of Congress.
The economy remains the main source of trouble for Democrats.
At stake Tuesday are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate.
A number of states also are holding votes for governorships, local officials and ballot measures.
Republican leaders say the political energy and momentum is on their side this year, just as it was with the Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Republican gains would make it more difficult for President Obama to win approval for his legislative initiatives.
Republicans campaigned in opposition to Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus and health care legislation and are vowing to cut taxes and reduce spending.
Mr. Obama and the Democrats said their actions prevented a more severe economic downturn, and provided health care coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.
During an appearance in Ohio Sunday, Mr. Obama blamed the current economic sluggishness and high unemployment rate on mistakes made by the previous Republican administration of George W. Bush.
The White House says regardless of the outcome of this or any other U.S. election, the voting is a powerful example to the world of the American people exercising their constitutional responsibilities and living up to the nation’s framework of government by the people.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
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US Midterm Elections Only Hours Away – Voice of America
Last Updated on Monday, 1 November 2010 08:04 Written by admin Monday, 1 November 2010 08:04
01 November 2010
U.S. voters will go to the polls in midterm elections on Tuesday for races in the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as state and local offices. Analysts say the elections could change the balance of power in Washington, where Democrats control the White House and dominate both houses of Congress.
Thirty-seven Senate seats are up for election across the country. And analysts say tight races in Western states like California could help to give the Republican Party a majority in the Senate. Republicans need to gain 10 seats to dominate that body. But public opinion surveys suggest that will be difficult.
More likely would be a shift in the House of Representatives. All 435 House seats are up for election. And most analysts say the Republicans could gain the 39 seats they need to claim a House majority. A Republican-dominated House would make it harder for President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to pursue their legislative agenda.
One of the nation’s tightest races is in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing a tough challenge from conservative activist, Republican Sharron Angle. Nevada has the nation’s highest unemployment rate and one of the highest rates of defaults on home mortgages. Most polls show Angle with a slight lead.
Across the country, both major parties have flooded the airwaves with negative campaign advertisements.
A California ad for Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer attacks her Republican challenger, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina.
Boxer TV ad: “Carly Fiorina. As CEO, she shipped more than 30,000 jobs to China. Before she was fired, Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers, outsourced jobs to China, then took $ 100 million for herself. Carly Fiorina – outsourcing jobs, out for herself.”
Fiorina’s ads say it is time for a change.
Fiorina TV ad: “And if we reelect Barbara Boxer, nothing will change. She’ll continue to vote for higher taxes, job-crushing policies – just like she’s done for 28 years. Nothing will change. And Barbara Boxer will continue to be what she’s always been – self-serving, ineffective, more of the same.”
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have been campaigning around the country, as has former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Mr. Obama frequently reminds voters of his 2008 campaign promise to bring change to Washington.
“If everybody who fought for change in 2008 shows up in 2010, we [the Democrats] will win this election,” said President Obama.
California voter Karen Westland says she is supporting Republican candidates because of the weak economy and what she views as the president’s failed promises.
“All the change I have is left in my pocket,” said Westland. “Believe that – [coins in my pocket] is all the change I’ve gotten from President Obama.”
Democrat Genae Victoria Jefferson says the president and his fellow Democrats have important accomplishments, including health care reform and a government economic stimulus package. She supports Democratic candidates and causes.
“Oh, definitely,” said Jefferson. “And I’m ready for the propositions, I’m ready for the gubernatorial race, the congressional races.”
Some states permit early voting and so many people in places like Nevada and California have already cast their ballots. Both major parties promise a major get-out-the-vote drive on Election Day.