The disqualification of almost 100 candidates - including many Muslims - from Myanmar’s upcoming election could undermine confidence in the poll among the country’s electorate and the international community, the U.S. State Department has said.
Spokesman John Kirby cited reports saying that almost every Muslim who had applied to run in the Nov. 8 poll has been disqualified on citizenship grounds, saying “the relevant authorities have yet to provide the specific reasons for which they did not meet these criteria”, Anadolu Agency reported.
The ballot is being billed as the freest for decades despite criticism that Muslims in the Buddhist-majority country are being excluded.
Aye Lwin, chief convenor of the Islamic Centre of Myanmar, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the election commission was “not applying the law” when scrutinising Muslim candidates.
“What criteria are they using?” he asked.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, a maligned minority living primarily in western Rakhine state, lost their voting rights earlier this year when the government withdrew temporary citizenship documents in response to protests by nationalist Buddhists.
“These elections are vitally important for Burma’s people and its future,” said Kirby, using Myanmar’s alternative name.
“However, there are concerns about the constitutional provision that reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military and the disenfranchisement of temporary registration certificate holders.”
He added: “The move to disqualify some 100 candidates, through an opaque and discriminatory process, risks undermining the confidence of the Burmese people and the international community in these elections.”
Myanmar began emerging from almost five decades of military dictatorship in 2011, when President Thein Sein’s semi-civilian government came to power.
The President used a video message published on Facebook this week to flaunt his support of anti-Muslim policies, including the recent passing of four laws on race and religion drafted by lawyers working for ultra-nationalist monks.
November's poll will be the first to be contested by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) since it won the 1990 election.
That election was later annulled after the military refused to recognize the results.
The NLD, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, boycotted the discredited 2010 poll that brought the current regime to power.
Despite its democratic credentials, the opposition party failed to field a single Muslim candidate for this year’s poll, prompting accusations from its own Muslim members that it is pandering to Buddhist extremists.
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