THE first election in Myanmar in 20 years should not be mistaken as a step towards democracy. The elections, held under the supervision of the military junta and with rules that made it difficult for independent political parties to field candidates, was more like window dressing by an authoritarian regime.Instead of voting in an unfair election many residents chose to fill pagodas and churches to offer prayers. The election has been rightly dubbed as neither free nor fair by the US President, Mr Barack Obama and the British Foreign Secretary Mr William Hague. Two political parties, both owing allegiance to the army, have fielded candidates. While the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is closely aligned to General Than Shwe who has ruled the country since 1992, the only opposition comes from the National Unity Party (NUP) which has the backing of a different faction in the army. A large vote for the NUP will not change the balance of power but would be seen as a subtle blow to Gen Than Shwe. The last election was held in 1990 when Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide which was ignored by the army. Ms Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for the last 15 years on account of her pro-democracy stance. Observers believe that the election is not likely to ease sanctions imposed by western nations to force the military junta to yield ground to pro-democracy forces. As long as 2,100 political prisoners continue to remain behind bars and political parties are restrained from participating, no election will ever be free and fair in Myanmar.