Burma's Checklist for a Bogus Election
On Sunday, Burma's ironically named military dictatorship, the State Peace and Development Council, is holding the country's first elections in 20 years. Pretty much every Western government, including ours, has written them off as a sham; from the moment they were scheduled, it was clear the race was fixed. Here's an update, along with some new bad news, about how thoroughly a junta can shit on the democratic process.
- Shut down the Internet. Slowdowns and interruptions have been reported all week. Now The Irrawaddy, the most prominent exile site and best place for getting inside info from the notoriously cloistered country, has been cyberattacked to death—again.
- Don't let reporters in. So info can't get out via outsiders, either.
- Ban the famous opposition candidate from running. Bonus points if you also keep her under house arrest.
- Ban a bunch of ethnic minorities from voting, namely ones that are already mad at you for subjecting them to war crimes or ethnic-cleansing campaigns.
- Form a political party loaded with military men who've stepped down so they can run as civilians. Even though you've also already set aside 25 percent of legislative seats for active military men.
- Hold mandatory village meetings where your political party shows people the correct way to vote (for them). Yeah, that really happened.
Those are some of the reasons a lot of people in Burma just won't vote. At this point, it appears the best-case scenario is that the same bad men who rain human rights abuses all over their country will remain in power. But that's still better than the worst-case scenario: Some worry that Burma's government will use the new shroud of democracy to intensify its evil campaigns. The real question right now is whether those grim prospects will lead to massive protests this weekend, like 2007's Saffron Revolution.