Yangon: Official media in military-ruled Myanmar told citizens on Friday they would be irresponsible if they did not vote in a November election, a poll seen as a sham by many, especially with the main opposition party not running.
This was the first time that state newspapers, seen as a mouthpiece of the Army regime, have broached the subject of a boycott.
Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called on members of her party, which swept Myanmar's last election in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, not to vote, but she has not called for a boycott.
The newspapers said it was up to individuals to decide whether to vote or not on November 07, but those who refused to participate would be "irresponsible opportunists" and "too foolish to enjoy democracy”.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) was effectively dissolved in May after refusing to register for the elections it sees as unfair from the outset.
Suu Kyi, a 65-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate who has spent 15 of the past 21 years in some form of detention, said again this week that NLD supporters would be justified in not voting.
"She said the people have the right to decide whether or not to vote, and they should not vote if they don't know who to vote for since the NLD is not participating in the elections," her lawyer, Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman of her party, cited her as telling him.
Some members of the NLD decided to break away and form a new party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), because they wanted to participate in the election.
However, the election has been widely dismissed as a sham that will create a facade of democracy while leaving the military and their proxies in control of Parliament and ministries.
The elections are for two houses of Parliament and regional assemblies. Under a 2008 Constitution, the military has reserved seats in Parliament and will remain the dominant force.
Ordinary citizens seem baffled in the face of the new Constitution and 42 parties eligible to field candidates.
According to party sources, some parties have submitted only three candidates, the minimum required by the Election Law. In contrast, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) set up by the junta, will contest all 1,163 seats.
"People are all at sea. They just don't know anything about the constitution or the parties and the candidates, either," said retired senior civil servant Ba Tin, who is in his late 70s.
"I have gone through the new constitution thoroughly ... I am sure it is not a flawless one, as the opposition says. I don't think we should boycott the election just because of this, but I just don't know who to vote for," he added.
Only two out of scores of people surveyed by a news agency said they had read the Constitution. Most said they felt they ought to take part in the election but they had no idea who to vote for.
"I don't know much about the parties and not much at all about the candidates. I wonder if the election will be free and fair," said a 36-year-old doctor who declined to be identified.
"I was only 16 in 1990, not old enough to vote. In fact, we can't wait to vote, but we really don't know who and which party to vote for."
First Published: Friday, September 10, 2010, 16:17