Burma holds 1st vote in 20 years

Polls have opened in Burma's first election in two decades, a vote widely expected to be won by a party backed by the country's military junta.

Polls opened Sunday in Burma's first election in two decades, but the vote is widely expected to end in victory for a party backed by the country's military junta.

About 40,000 polling stations opened across the country just after 6 a.m. local time and were to remain open for 10 hours.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party, which has the backing of the military government and is widely expected to emerge as the winner, has 1,112 candidates for the 1,159 seats in the two-house national parliament and 14 regional parliaments.

The USDP's main rival, the National Unity Party, is running 995 candidates. The National Unity Party is backed by supporters of the country's previous military ruler.

The constitution of Burma, also known as Myanmar, sets aside 25 per cent of the seats in parliament for military appointees. Hundreds of opposition politicians, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, are under house arrest or in prison.

The election was quickly slammed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"It's heartbreaking because the people of Burma deserve so much better," she told university students in Melbourne, Australia.

The military government of Burma has banned foreign journalists and international monitors from scrutinizing the vote.

"These elections are going to be neither free, nor fair, or inclusive. There is nothing in these elections that could give us grounds for optimism," British Ambassador to Burma Andrew Heyn said.


With files from The Associated Press