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Party Registration Laws Set NLD a Deadline

Originally appeared in The Irrawaddy

March 9, 2010

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has 60 days from the enactment of the regime’s election laws in which to decide whether or not to accept the terms of the party registration laws set by the regime.

The NLD and other currently legal parties would automatically cease to exist as legal entities if they fail to apply for registration to the election within that time, according to a copy of the party registration laws obtained on Tuesday by The Irrawaddy. A copy of the laws is expected to be released to the public on Wednesday.

The party registration laws would also impose the junta’s “genuine, disciplined multi-party democratic system” on all political parties contesting the 2010 election.

“A political party is defined as one which is convinced of  ‘disciplined multi-party democracy’ on the basis of a political ideology,” specifies Article 2/d of Chapter 1 of the party registration laws.

NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi would also be barred from leading her party at the polls if she is not released before the election because the laws stipulate that those convicted by a court and serving a jail term are not eligible to found a political party.

Suu Kyi is currently serving an 18-month sentence of house arrest, which is due to expire in November, while speculation is growing that the election will take place in October.

The NLD has not yet decided whether or not to take part in the election. The party’s demand for a review of the Constitution has been ignored by the regime.

Analysts say that the Constitution is constructed around a theory of “disciplined democracy,” with 25 percent of the bicameral parliament comprised of military representatives—a maneuver intended to avoid a repeat of the 1990 election in which the opposition party won a landslide victory.

The Constitution guarantees the military 110 out of 440 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw (People’s Parliament) and 56 out of 224 seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw (Nationalities Parliament). Military officials will also hold the same share in state and region Hluttaws, as well as in the leading bodies of self-administrative areas.

Even though it has only 25 percent representation in parliament, the military becomes the dominant block in the legislative process, because a constitutional amendment or legislative bill requires the approval of more than 75 percent of parliament members.

State-run newspapers on Tuesday carried the details of the Union Election Commission Law, saying the military regime will select members of the election commission which will supervise the parliamentary polls and the political parties. The regime will appoint as members of the election commission “persons which it views as distinguished and reputable.”

According to a report which The Irrawaddy cannot yet verify, Burma’s police chief, Gen Khin Yi, said on Tuesday that the election will be held in October, leaving the parties five months in which to campaign.

He disclosed the month of election at a local gathering near Naypyidaw, according to sources in the capital. Khin Yi reportedly said party registration would begin soon and the parties would be given a pre-election campaign period.

He also said that security units would be formed to counter “internal and external destructive elements.” They would receive training in clearing landmines and riot control.

In his speech on the Armed Forces Day last year, Snr-Gen Than Shwe said that parties that carry out “mature party organizing work will receive the blessing of the government,” and that the country should not expect a “well-established democracy” overnight.

On Monday, the Burmese military regime announced the enactment of the elections laws, although it still has to announce the date for the election, scheduled to take place this year. Details of the laws were released on Tuesday and further details are also to be made available to the public in the coming days.

According to Rangoon residents, there was a run on Tuesday’s edition of state-controlled newspapers, whose price jumped from 100-150 kyat (US $0.10-0.15 ) to 200-250 kyat ($0.20-0.25).

“Newspapers sold out today, but I don’t think many people are excited about these laws, only those interested in politics.” said a Rangoon resident.

Download the Burmese language copy of the registration laws. An English translation is not yet available.


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