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Myanmar heads toward controversial elections

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The country's first balloting in two decades will begin Sunday
  • Critics say the voting is a sham aimed at creating a facade of democracy
  • The ruling military regime has rejected international monitoring of the elections
  • Leading democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected voting

(CNN) -- Myanmar on Sunday will hold the country's first elections in two decades, elections that critics say are aimed at creating a facade of democracy.

The country's ruling military junta has refused to allow international monitors to oversee the elections, and recently overhauled Myanmar's constitution in a way that critics say is aimed at tightening the regime's grip.

The constitution now requires more than 100 military nominees in parliament. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962.

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In October, the military regime rejected international monitoring of Sunday's elections.

"Since we have many experiences in election, we don't need experts on this issue," said Thein Soe, chairman of the election commission.

"And since we have all ambassadors who are representing their countries, we don't think we need to invite any special group to observe the election since all the ambassadors are here and can watch it on election day," he added.

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Leading democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected voting in the elections, her lawyer said.

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"Since NLD is not participating in this coming election, she doesn't want to vote," her lawyer Nyan Win said in October.

The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi's party, announced in March that it would not participate. A new law forced the NLD to choose between honoring Suu Kyi as its leader and risking the party being declared illegal, or ejecting Suu Kyi from the party and contesting the elections.

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Suu Kyi's party won a landslide election victory in 1990, but the military junta rejected the results.

The regime recently passed a law that made Suu Kyi ineligible to run because of a court conviction. The Nobel laureate has called the law unjust.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She has spent most of the past 20 years under house arrest.

Her supporters have said that her current conviction was a way to remove her from the election campaign.

A Myanmar court convicted Suu Kyi in August 2009 for breaching the terms of her house arrest after American John Yettaw swam uninvited to her lakeside house in Yangon and briefly stayed there. In February, a court rejected her appeal for release.

Suu Kyi's current house arrest is due to end in mid-November, but her lawyers are skeptical that the military junta will actually release her.