Myanmar election 'better than expected' in terms of transparency, credibility: EU observers

An official showing a valid vote at a polling station in Sittwe on Nov 8.
An official showing a valid vote at a polling station in Sittwe on Nov 8. PHOTO: AFP

Myanmar's historic Nov 8 election was "better than expected" in terms of transparency and credibility, the European Union (EU) observer mission said on Tuesday (Nov 10).

 Despite some reservations over the process of advance voting, which in some cases was opaque, the mission gave the process a 95 per cent approval rating.

Separately, opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi told the BBC in an interview that the polls were "not free, but fair".

 In a statement, the EU said: "Voters turned out in large numbers and calmly cast their votes in a generally well-run process, with secrecy of the vote respected." 

"In the vast majority of cases, polling stations opened on time and were well prepared," the EU said. "Most voters... found their names on the voter list, but in 7 per cent of polling stations visited, some absences on the list were observed."

"This election is not over yet, as long as counting an tabulating is going on," team leader Alexander Lambsdorff, vice-president of the European Parliament, stressed to journalists.

 But "the process went better than expected" and voting list errors - a major worry before the election - were less of an issue than feared.

 The EU's observer mission was the largest of an array of foreign teams, with over 150 people fanned out across around 540 polling stations. Observers will remain in the country watching the counting, tabulation and dispute resolution process, until Dec 2.

Concern was expressed over the framework, however.

The EU noted that 25 per cent of both chambers of parliament are reserved for the military, saying that only when all seats in at least one chamber are up for election, can the poll be considered genuinely democratic.

 There was also concern over inclusivity - including the disenfranchisement of minority Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

However, it was an issue that went beyond the election itself, to larger questions of politics and society, Mr Lambsdorff said.

 But "the country has come a long way", Mr Lambsdorff said, adding "if you compare (the conduct of the election) with the apprehensions and fears prior to election day, they turned out to be much less significant".

 Meanwhile, results continue to trickle in, and by mid-morning, the NLD had won 78 seats and the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party had scored just three in the national Parliament.