Obama Calls for 'Inclusive and Credible' Elections in Myanmar
by William Gallo October 31, 2014
President Barack Obama has called on Myanmar to hold an 'inclusive and credible process' for conducting parliamentary elections in 2015.
President Obama's comment was made during separate phone calls Thursday with Myanmar President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Myanmar leaders on Friday are taking part in what is seen as a crucial meeting of the country's top military, political and ethnic minority leaders.
Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, is facing several challenges as it attempts to emerge from nearly 50 years of direct, oppressive military rule.
In the violence-ridden western state of Rakhine, the minority Rohingya ethnic group complains of government and societal persecution.
The government is also trying to secure a nationwide ceasefire with other economic minority groups that have fought government forces for decades.
In addition, there are tensions over efforts by Aung San Suu Kyi's political party to change the constitution, which guarantees the military a dominant role in politics.
In his phone call with the longtime pro-democracy leader, Obama discussed the country's ongoing political and economic reforms and the need to ensure an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections.
White House officials said the two leaders also discussed 'how the United States can support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment.'
During his discussion with President Thein Sein, Obama 'stressed the importance of the government of Burma taking additional steps to address the tensions and the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State.'
He also 'welcomed the commitment of Thein Sein and his government to the peace process and said every effort should be made conclude a national ceasefire in the short term.'
Obama is set to visit Myanmar next month to attend a pair of regional summits. Many analysts say Friday's meeting of the country's top political leaders was motivated in part by that upcoming visit.
The summit to be held Friday in the capital, Naypyidaw, will bring together six political parties, including Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
The NLD is expected to perform well during parliamentary elections, which will occur in late October or early November of next year.
It will be the country's second general election since a nominally civilian government took power in 2011 and enacted a series of political and economic reforms.
The reforms have been lauded by the country's opposition leaders, foreign governments and rights groups. But many still complain that the constitution bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency, since her late husband and two sons are British.
The constitution also ensures that the military retains at least 25 percent of seats in parliament.
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