Myanmar voted in its first election in 20 years on Sunday under tight security, a scripted vote that assures army-backed parties an easy win but brings a hint of parliamentary politics to one of Asia's most oppressed states.
The carefully choreographed end of a half-century of direct army rule is largely a race between two military-backed parties running virtually unopposed, due to complex election rules that stifled any prospect for pro-democracy parties to cause an upset.
The vote will not bring an end to Western sanctions but could reduce Myanmar's isolation in Asia at a time when neighboring China has dramatically increased investments in natural gas and other resources in the former British colony also known as Burma, Reuters reports.
President Barack Obama said Sunday the elections now being held in Myanmar are "anything but free and fair."
Speaking to a group of college students in Mumbai, Obama said "for too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny."
In a statement released by the White House after the president met with the students, Obama said the balloting failed to meet any of the internationally accepted standards associated with legitimate elections.
"The elections were based on a fundamentally flawed process and demonstrated the regime's continued preference for repression and restriction over inclusion and transparency," Obama said, Washington Post reports.
A 20,000-strong group of PMC Wagner fighters stationed in Belarus disappeared from the field of view of the collective West