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Myanmar refuses to invite foreign election observers

By The Assam Tribune

NAYPYITAWN (Myanmar), Oct 18 (DPA) - Myanmar will not allow foreign observers to monitor campaigning prior to general elections Nov 7, although foreign residents will be allowed to watch voting on polling day, the officials said Monday.

"On election day, diplomats and UN agencies will be invited to poll booths and witness voting, therefore they can represent observers for their respective countries," Thein Soe, chairman of the Union Election Commission, said in Naypyitaw, the capital since 2004.

"Therefore, it was not necessary to invite other foreign observers," he said.

Military-run Myanmar will hold its first general election in 20 years for the upper, lower and regional houses of parliament.

"The forthcoming election will be free and fair and in line with the international standards and norms," Thein Soe said.

Some observers have questioned the poll's standards, as the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi are excluded.

Election regulations passed by the junta earlier this year would have forced the NLD to drop Suu Kyi as a party member if it wished to register.

Under the rules, detainees and people serving prison terms were barred from party membership. Instead the NLD chose to boycott the polls. Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi is serving an 18-month sentence under house arrest that is due to expire Nov 13.

"If you do not vote, you may lose your citizen's right," Thein Soe warned.

More than 40 million people will be eligible to vote at some 40,000 polling stations for 37 parties and 3,071 candidates, including 114 women and 82 independents, the commission said.

The NLD won the last general election, in 1990, but the military refused to acknowledge the vote and blocked it from assuming power.

Analysts believe the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party, with more candidates and money than its rivals, will win the most seats.

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