RANGOON — President Thein Sein used his monthly radio address on Tuesday to emphasize the significance of the country’s looming general election, calling on voters to make considered decisions at the ballot box and for the result to be respected.
In his speech, broadcast on several radio stations on Tuesday, the president said he understood people would be looking to the future with high hopes.
“I hope people will understand the importance of these elections and would like to urge them to objectively judge the quality, qualifications, morality, goodwill and objectives of candidates before casting a vote for them,” Thein Sein said.
The president also urged that the people’s desire, as reflected in the outcome of the Nov. 8 poll, be respected.
While it was not immediately apparent whether this counsel was directed at a specific group, or more broadly intended, the comment raised eyebrows among at least two political parties on Tuesday.
Aye Thar Aung, patron of the Arakan National Party, said it was Thein Sein’s own party, not the general public, that should be urged to respect the outcome of Burma’s upcoming vote.
“We experienced in 1990, when the NLD won, that the government didn’t recognize [the result]. This time, whoever wins the election, the ruling government has the responsibility to hand over power,” he said.
“Thein Sein does not need to urge the people to accept the result, it’s the responsibility of his government.”
Win Htein, a spokesperson for Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), surmised that the president may have been addressing ruling party members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
“I believe the message to his colleagues would be ‘accept the outcome, even if the NLD win,’” he said.
Win Htein added that the president should pay closer attention to the management of the electoral process thus far under the Union Election Commission (UEC).
“The first thing he should do is to urge the UEC chair Tin Aye to ensure voter lists are corrected,” he said.
On this score, Thein Sein referenced the efforts of civil society in monitoring the process.
“I deeply appreciate the efforts of civil society organizations that have cooperated with election commissions at different levels to make sure people are not disenfranchised,” he said.
The NLD has routinely voiced concern that voter lists were riddled with errors that may bar eligible voters from casting a ballot in November. A final display of the lists concluded in most areas of the country on Sept. 27.
An estimated 32 million people are eligible to vote in the election which will see more than 6,000 candidates from 93 political parties vie for seats across the country.