RANGOON — It’s a landslide: The international community voiced its uniform support for Burma’s historic Nov. 8 poll, which saw the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) clobber the ruling party in a massive victory.
Editors were swamped on Wednesday as near-identical statements reached their desks from foreign offices around the globe, dampening hopes of a slow news cycle after a heady few days.
“These landmark elections are an important step towards democracy in Burma and a triumph for the Burmese people, who have clearly voiced their desire for change,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement on Wednesday, adding his voice to the chorus of leaders commending the historic event.
Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also extended his congratulations to the people of Burma for their performance in the poll.
“The eagerness and enthusiasm displayed by the Burmese people in exercising their right to vote demonstrates clearly that they are committed to building their young democracy,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“We encourage all parties to work together to ensure that any disputes and discrepancies are addressed in a constructive manner and that a peaceful transition to the newly elected government ensues. The people of Burma deserve nothing less.”
The US State Department made an early but transparent endorsement dated the night of the vote, as Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the people of Burma for a peaceful poll right off the mark. Emphasizing the importance of a peaceful post-election period that ensures the confidence of politicians and the electorate, Kerry commended all those who “seized this opportunity.”
Most of the congratulations poured in on Wednesday, however, hot on the heels of preliminary statements issued by international observation missions from the European Union and the US-based Carter Center—essentially parroting their findings—which we will summarize here despite our fairly comprehensive coverage on Tuesday.
Observers from both missions declared the poll free, but not necessarily fair. The election was peaceful and orderly, and voters turned out in large numbers to cast ballots at more than 40,000 polling stations nationwide.
The EU mission said 95 percent of observers rated the polling process on election day as “good” or “very good,” while the Carter center said the voting procedures on Nov. 8 were a “success.”
Both remained concerned about the lack of transparency in the administration of advance out of constituency voting, which primarily concerns military servicemen, police and citizens living abroad. The disenfranchisement of Muslims and the underrepresentation of women was also a concern for both missions, though this week’s memos from foreign leaders were largely devoid of criticism.
The Australian Foreign Ministry, however, took the opportunity to congratulate itself, reminding everyone that the country contributed $4.2 million to strengthening the electoral process.
Most comically, in Thailand—which is ruled by a military junta and probably will not hold a democratic election until at least 2017—Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reportedly wrote to President Thein Sein to reiterate his support for “the development of democracy” in Burma, according to the news website Khaosod English.
Citing Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sek Wannamethee, the report said Thailand was “ready to cooperate with every side in Myanmar, including the new government.”