Myanmar to invite Western observers for general election

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C) greets supporters, after giving a speech in front of a statue of her father, General Aung San, to mark his 100th birthday anniversary in his hometown of Natmauk, in the Magway district of central Myanmar, February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (Reuters)

YANGON (Reuters) – - A senior member of Myanmar's government has said members of the U.S.-based Carter Center and the European Union will be invited to monitor a general election later this year, the first time in at least 65 years that the country will call in Western poll observers. "We'll allow the Carter foundation and EU to observe the upcoming general election independently to ensure the election takes place free and fair," Soe Thein, a senior minister at the president’s Office, said at a forum on Monday. "It will be the first general election held under a democratically elected government in many years," he said. Foreign observers were not allowed in the 2010 general elections that ushered in Myanmar's first semi-civilian government after almost half a century of military rule. Only observers from Southeast Asian nations were invited to the 2012 by-elections, which brought democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament. Before 2010, the last general election in Myanmar, then Burma, was held in 1990, but the military did not allow parliament to convene. At the election before that in 1960, it was not clear if foreign observers were invited. The Union Election Commission has set end April as the deadline for political party registration for this year's polls, likely to be held in the first week of November. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)