'Elections in Burma not free or fair’

The Netherlands is disappointed with the conduct of Sunday’s elections in Burma, which were neither free nor fair. A quarter of the seats are earmarked for the military, the electoral commission was not independent, and a number of parties were barred from taking part. In Burma, there is no freedom of the press and the authorities are still holding more than 2,000 political prisoners (including Aung San Suu Kyi), who were also unable to participate in the election.

It appears, from the information available at present, that the election unfolded without any significant incidents. ‘Despite the gloomy prospects, I hope that the first elections in twenty years will herald the beginning of democratic change in Burma,’ said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal.

No international observer missions were admitted to Burma to monitor the election. However, a number of EU diplomats in Burma were able to witness the electoral process in action. Their observation of the preparations provided the basis for the Netherlands’ conclusion that the elections were not sufficiently free and fair.

Nevertheless, a large number of parties participated in the process, including opposition parties. The Netherlands and the EU are urging the Burmese authorities to turn these elections into the start of a process of national reconciliation, with an inclusive dialogue involving the government, the opposition and representatives of all the country’s ethnic groups. In time, such a dialogue should lead to a more stable Burma, with a democratically elected government that respects human rights and is capable of driving the country’s socioeconomic development forward.

The Netherlands will judge the new government and newly elected parliament by their actions and by the extent to which they discharge their responsibility to the Burmese people.