Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, and Sen. Scott Brown, R-MA, (R) introduce Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, President Obama's pick to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, on the first day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 28, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Though Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, held elections for the first time in 20 years, they should not be considered legitimate, U.S. Sen. John Kerry says.
Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote an opinion piece for the Global Post, the online newspaper, that is highly critical of the Southeast Asian country's electoral process.
"This weekend, the government of Burma held national elections, the first in 20 years under that country's authoritarian system," Kerry wrote. "The elections were the culmination of a deeply flawed process, and should not be considered legitimate."
Kerry said Myanmar's military rulers drafted a constitution and election rules designed to prevent a repeat of 1990, when "Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy won those elections in a landslide, only to see the army nullify the results, round up its political opponents and impose two decades of calamitous military rule."
The army and its allies are likely to remain firmly in control for some time, Kerry said.
"The new constitution reserves a quarter of the seats in the Legislature for the military, and two pro-government parties were the only ones contesting many of the 1,157 constituencies in play," he said.
In addition, many of Burma's oppressed ethnic minority groups were barred from participation, he said.
"One crucial test will occur Nov. 13, when Aung San Suu Kyi's politically motivated confinement under house arrest is set to expire," Kerry said. "She should be set free and allowed to speak her mind."
If the Burmese government "breaks from the policies of the past, the United States should stand ready to improve relations and seek areas of cooperation that will directly benefit the Burmese people," he said.