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Halt to polls frustrates opposition

Parties voice scepticism over security fears for by-elections in Kachin region

Halt to polls frustrates opposition
Kachin people have to wait for a vote
John Zaw, Mandalay

March 27, 2012

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Opposition parties yesterday expressed surprise, frustration and disappointment over the postponement of three by-elections in Kachin State. State-media announced on March 23 that the Union Election Commission had postponed the polls because “security conditions are not conducive to free and fair elections.” Conflict between ethnic rebels and government troops resumed last year and is still ongoing. The polls were three of 48 by-elections scheduled to take place on April 1 in what is being seen by international observers as a test for the government regarding its commitment to democracy, and which could be the key to the lifting of international sanctions. The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy voiced concern and expressed disappointment at the announcement. “Election authorities say they postponed the polls because of security concerns but we are not sure whether the security is meant for them, the observers, the candidates, or for the people,” said Han Thar Myint, an NLD spokesman. He said the party has asked permission from the government to talk with, the rebels’ political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), to seek security guarantees. But Bauk Ja, a candidate from the National Democratic Force, said there is no need for the NLD to talk to the KIO as the rebels have already said that will not interfere in the polls. This decision came from the government’s election commission and has nothing to do with the KIO, he said yesterday. “We will wait and see what happens next,” he said adding: “I don’t see any security concerns.” He said the conflict has been in rural areas and there is no fighting in the towns including his constituency, Mogaung.    
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