Campaign restrictions were implemented by the regime and the Election Commission, but not on an even and equal basis. Regime backed parties faced virtually no restrictions, while other parties regularly faced significant obstacles and limitations during their campaigns. The authorities’ interference in the campaign process directly undercut the activities of non-regime backed political parties, and served to prevent the formation of a strong, viable opposition. In particular, ethnic political parties and candidates known to be opposed to the regime were rejected from the election process as a whole. One opposition candidate was even arrested after questioning the Election Commission’s voter manipulation in USDP’s favor. Tighter controls regularly occurred in areas with the less SPDC control and greater anti-regime sentiment. These restrictions ensured that the elections were not be free or fair. By forcibly preventing the formation of a significant opposition, the authorities’ actions undermined the very democratic principles at the root of multiparty elections.
• Closing campaign offices
• Disrupting/preventing campaign activities
• Unlawful arrest and detention of candidates
• Rejection of candidates
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Access to Information
Flow of information was heavily restricted and limited both within the country and to the outside world. Within the country, censorship controls enforced limitations on freedom of speech and information; The public, and in particular, media groups were banned from criticizing the 2008 Constitution, the election laws, or questioning the suspect formation of the USDP. Media groups suffered grave consequences for failing to comply with such restrictions, including arrests of editors and being shut down. Beyond media, controls were in place to ensure that election education for the general population was limited, largely manipulated, and biased towards the regime’s interests. The Election Commission took advantage of voter’s lack of election education and manipulated their ballots in the USDP’s favor.
In order to prevent thorough and comprehensive awareness about the elections outside of the country, authorities took extensive measures to limit outside access to information regarding election processes. Phone and internet connections suffered massive hits or reductions in service, and Burma’s exile news agencies’ websites were hacked in the lead up to the elections. Burma continues to be one of the most closed societies in the world.