Myanmar election 'well-conducted', people empowered, says Carter Centre observers

 International observers from The Carter Centre arriving at a polling station in a primary school in Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar on Nov 8, 2015. Myanmar's election was given a thumbs-up from observers from the non-profit centre.
International observers from The Carter Centre arriving at a polling station in a primary school in Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar on Nov 8, 2015. Myanmar's election was given a thumbs-up from observers from the non-profit centre.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Election observers from the United States-based Carter Centre, watching their 101st election, have given Myanmar's Nov 8 poll a qualified but enthusiastic thumbs up.

 The organisation had 62 observers deployed in 245 polling stations across the country, and prior to releasing its statement on Tuesday (Nov 10), had consulted with the European Union and other observer teams as well to aggregate information.

 Apart from minor procedural problems, polling and counting had been "generally well conducted" the Carter Centre concluded.

The non-governmental, non-profit centre is dedicated to global health and democracy.

 Former Ireland president Mary Robinson, who was part of the team, said: "I warmly congratulate the people of Myanmar for their extraordinary commitment to move this country forward.

"The people of Myanmar have been empowered," she added.

 Flaws included no access by observers to advance voting; anti-Muslim sentiment and the use of race and religion based rhetoric in campaigns; and some delay and lack of transparency in posting results.

"We have to acknowledge that Myanmar's democratic transition is incomplete and ongoing," said Mr Jason Carter, incoming chairman of the Carter Centre's board and grandson of former US president Jimmy Carter.

 But many of the procedural issues were minor and put down to inexperience, and the transparency of the elections - with political party agents present in all cases - was lauded.

"Despite the flaws, Myanmar appears to be on a positive trajectory toward a peaceful, democratic transition," the Carter Centre said in a statement.

 "To maintain this trajectory, it is important for all actors to engage in a dialogue and consensus-seeking process to identify constructive steps towards lasting peace and reconciliation."

 The Carter Centre assessment came close on the heels of another independent assessment from the European Union, which had the biggest international observer team in Myanmar.

 In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: "For the first time in decades, elections were contested by all major political parties in an overall calm, peaceful and organised way across the country.

"The impressive turnout… bears testimony to the commitment of Myanmar's voters to the continued democratisation of the country. In the post-elections period, it will be critical for all sides to accept the results in a spirit of national unity and reconciliation."

nirmal@sph.com.sg