The Advertiser

Per­se­cuted mil­lions de­nied a vote

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Polls opened in Myan­mar yes­ter­day for a vote ex­pected to re­turn to power the gov­ern­ment of Aung San Suu Kyi, who re­mains a hero at home de­spite a rep­u­ta­tion abroad shat­tered by the Ro­hingya cri­sis.

The elec­tion will be just the sec­ond since the South-East Asian na­tion emerged from nearly half a cen­tury of junta rule in 2011.

Doubts about the vote’s cred­i­bil­ity are al­ready over­shad­ow­ing the elec­tion. Vir­tu­ally all the 600,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims re­main­ing in the coun­try – half of whom are of vot­ing age – are stripped of cit­i­zen­ship and rights, in­clud­ing their chance to vote.

“This is an apartheid elec­tion,” said rights group Burma Cam­paign UK, ad­ding the polls were “less free and fair than the last”.

Re­stric­tions across many other eth­nic mi­nor­ity ar­eas mean some two mil­lion are dis­en­fran­chised from an elec­torate of 37 mil­lion.

Five years ago Suu Kyi’s

Na­tional League for Democ­racy (NLD) won a land­slide vic­tory, but was forced by the con­sti­tu­tion into an un­easy power-shar­ing agree­ment with the mil­i­tary.

This time the civil­ian leader – in a bid to main­tain an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity – has im­plored cit­i­zens to over­come their fears of COVID-19 to turn out the vote.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, vot­ers wear­ing com­pul­sory face masks and armed with hand sani­tiser, lined up out­side polling sta­tions.

 ??  ?? Aung A San Suu Kyi.
Aung A San Suu Kyi.

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