Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Burmese in Singapore cast advance ballots

AP, SINGAPORE

Burmese line up on Friday along a street near Myanmar’s embassy in Singapore to vote in their country’s upcoming general election.

Photo: AFP

For a fourth day, hundreds of Burmese lined up outside their embassy in Singapore yesterday to cast advance ballots in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 parliamentary election.

The large turnout has overwhelmed embassy staff, prompting officials to extend voting that was supposed to end yesterday by three days.

The election is believed to be the country’s best chance in decades at relatively free and credible polls, and the long lines — and comments from would-be voters — suggested an eagerness to vote and shape the country’s future.

“We hope there’s very big change,” said Than Han, a 26-year-old employee at a manufacturing company who was unable to vote on Saturday despite standing in line for more than four hours.

“Education, living standards, lifestyle. Everything must change,” he said, tightly grasping a token that guaranteed him an opportunity to vote yesterday.

Myanmar began moving from a half-century of military rule toward democracy in 2011 when a nominally civilian government, led by a pro-military party, took office.

Many observers believe Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will win the most seats in parliament, and could control a majority by forming a coalition with smaller parties. Her party boycotted the most recent nationwide election in 2010, dampening turnout.

Seeking better earning opportunities, thousands of Burmese have taken up jobs in nearby countries, such as Singapore. However, only a small fraction — about 30,000 overseas workers in 37 nations — have been registered for advance voting, according to Thein Oo, director of Myanmar’s Union Election Commission in Naypyidaw.

Voting started on Thursday in Singapore, and after it became clear that the embassy could not process all those in line, voters started lining up in the early morning, forming a queue that stretched nearly 1km and disrupting traffic.

Embassy officials on Saturday decided to cap the number of voters at 3,000 per day, issuing tokens to keep that number in check, and announced voting would be extended until Wednesday.

Yesterday, some voters sat on picnic mats, taking pictures and talking to friends. Volunteers who were not associated with the embassy handed out packet noodles, traditional desserts and wet wipes to those in line.

“We want democracy and improvement. The only way to do that is to vote the correct government to get a democracy,” said Yin Myint Htut, a 30-year-old nurse, as she waited in line.

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