Mahathir says Myanmar agrees to election


TOKYO, AFP

The leader of Myanmar’s junta is willing to hold elections “eventually” but polls will not be held this year or next, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was Sunday quoted as saying.

Mahathir, in an interview with Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun, said he met General Than Shwe during a week-long visit to Myanmar earlier this month and proposed elections to promote national reconciliation.

“He (Than Shwe) is willing to do the elections eventually. Well, the election will not be held this year or next. It should be held in a few years,” Mahathir was quoted as saying.

“They will have to determine proper voter registration. You have to do it step by step.”

Mahathir, quoted in a transcript provided to AFP by the newspaper, said he himself believed elections should eventually be held but added that “before they hold elections, they must understand the conduct of elections.

“We see sometimes the elections being held in many countries but that does not reflect the feelings of people,” Mahathir was quoted as saying.

“When an election is held, people must learn the limits of elections. Not use elections to undermine authority.”

Asked if the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was changing its policy of non-interference by calling for an election, Mahathir said: “No. It is because Myanmar is a special case. The West is trying to pressure Myanmar, pressure ASEAN.”

He said ASEAN, which Myanmar joined in 1997 with Malaysia’s backing, did not want to interfere in each other’s internal affairs but to foster democracy in Myanmar.

“We feel that the benefits of a kind of liberal democracy in ASEAN member countries should be exposed and made known to the people and government of Myanmar, so they will not reject the system because this system is good and ensures the country can have the government of its choice,” Mahathir was quoted as saying.