WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement regarding the elections in Burma:
“In a historic day for the people of Burma, millions of people across the country let their voices be heard in the first contested election since 1990. This election presents an opportunity for unity and for change. But we know this election was not free from problems. While I applaud the Burmese citizens who cast their ballots today, for a range of reasons—from voter list discrepancies, to closed polling stations in conflict areas, to lack of access to citizenship or rescinded voting rights—many were denied that right today. Although the results of the election are not yet known, we do know that opposition parties faced remarkable hurdles, such as the quarter of the seats in parliament that are reserved for the Burmese military. So while we should celebrate the technical successes of today's election, we cannot call this election 'free and fair' because of the structural inequities put in place by Burma’s current government.
"I do, however, sincerely hope the elections are a step in the right direction, and that the results reflect the will of the people insomuch as is possible. On this historic day, we should remember that Burma’s transition to democracy is not just about what happens on Election Day but about how leaders choose to govern and meet the country's many challenges regardless of who takes power.”