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315 Section IV, A. ELECTIONS Burma and Britain Reproduced from Maung Maung, “Elections: Burma and Britain” in The Guardian III, no. 6 (April 1956): 34–35, by permission of Daw Khin Myint, wife of the late Dr Maung Maung. The author was in Britain and had a close-up of the general elections of 1950 and 1951. In this article he contrasts the elections he saw there, and the elections in Burma which he knew as a boy. The article is an excerpt from his book, “London Diary”. Ageneral election in England is not an exciting affair: it goes quietly and smoothly. I much prefer the elections in Burma which, at any rate in my younger days, never failed to be great fun. There would be the open air meetings in some football field or village monastery ground and people would turn up expecting to be kept amused for a good two or three hours. The meeting scheduled to start at eight in the evening would begin at nine-thirty but nobody would complain — it only prolonged the pleasure of the occasion. When the meeting was declared open with due ceremony the first minor speakers would ramble away on nothing in particular and the audience would tolerate them patiently because oriental philosophy accepts such inevitable bores as a part of life. The star speaker, in most cases the adopted candidate of a party, would make his appearance and applause would greet him. 04A DrMaung.indd 315 1/24/08 3:01:33 PM Reproduced from Dr Maung Maung: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot by Robert H. Taylor (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at 316 DR MAUNG MAUNG: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot When he started speaking with the conventional “Dear mothers and fathers of this celebrated town (or village)” his voice would be a mere whisper, for he had spoken at many meetings and lost his voice in the cause of the common man. But he would wax eloquent gradually and regain the lost voice if he was given time — and there was plenty of time, the night was young and cool, the moon was up and the bright stars were strewn all over the cloudless sky; it was nicer to be outdoors than in. The candidate would recount his past achievements, if any, and make his promises, which would invariably be quiet lavish. The people would care little about the alleged past achievements and less about the promises, but the speaker had a pleasant face, a pleasing voice, was witty, kept them amused for a good hour; he shall have the vote. There would, of course, be a proviso. He shall have the vote provided he could come and fetch the voter in a shining car and take him out to a free feast of curried chicken, preferably pork, and rice, before the visit to the polling station. Occasionally the candidate or his agents might even bring presents for the children. I remember the elections that took place in my home town with great fondness. The car would arrive on the great morning and smiling people would step out, and my father and mother in their shining silk would take me, similarly well-groomed, along for the joy ride. In those days the vote was given to the one in the family who paid the household tax, usually but not invariably, the father. So, thinking back now, I should imagine that my mother used to go with father to the polls just for the fun of the ride and the free feast, for in law she was as voteless as I was. It was possible, if one was clever enough, to get the gifts from one candidate, eat at the feast of another, go out in the car of yet another and vote for anyone he wanted, for the voting was by ballot; there is a lot of meaning in the saying that the secret vote is one of the essentials of democracy. It is possible, though I cannot be sure, that father practised the art of getting the most out of what, after all, was a rare occasion; it would be strange if he did not, for he is a lawyer, and lawyers, they say, are clever at such things. After...


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