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USDP Dominates Election Candidate Lists

By Burma Partnership  •  September 6, 2010

Political parties in Burma submitted their final candidate lists to the Union Election Commission on 30 August. While the Election Commission has until 10 September to formally approve of the candidates, informal reports about the candidate list do not appear promising.

As delineated in the 2008 Constitution, there are a total of 1,187 parliamentary seats for elected representatives available in the 2010 elections; specifically 330 national seats for the People’s Assembly, 168 national seats for the National Assembly and 689 seats in the division and state parliaments.

From informal reports the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the National Unity Party (NUP), unsurprisingly, appear to be the strongest contenders in terms of fielding candidates. USDP will reportedly field over 1,000 candidates, with the pro-junta NUP to have at least an additional 990 candidates. In comparison, the strongest independent parties have collectively a tenth of the candidates as the pro-junta parties; the National Democratic Force (NDF) will field 161 candidates, and the Democratic Party (Myanmar) has announced it will field only 50 candidates.

The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) will field 157 candidates, the largest number of candidates among ethnic political parties. Shan parties have historically been very successful in polls; in the 1990 elections, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) gained the second largest number of seats, with a particularly strong base in eastern Shan State. Other ethnic political parties, such as Chin Progressive Party (39 candidates), Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (45) and All Mon Democracy Party (35) have fielded candidates primarily in their division or state, but have also sought to contest for seats in the People’s Assembly and National Assembly. Further details about political parties and their candidates can be viewed on the Democratic Voice of Burma website. Based on figures released so far, junta-allied parties have fielded approximately 77% of the total candidates so far, with independent democracy and ethnic parties merely fielding 23% of the candidates.

This discrepancy is far from surprising, due to the many obstacles facing independent parties, such as bribery, vote buying, forced memberships, censorship, intimidation, and the extremely non-inclusive candidate registration fees: 500,000 kyat ($500 USD) per candidate – approximately one year’s salary for the average civil servant in Burma. Elections will not be held in constituencies with candidates from only one party; given the number of USDP candidates to be fielded across Burma, it is likely that some constituencies will automatically go to the USDP.

Further information will emerge after the election commission approves the candidate lists, but it is already clear that the regime has ensured that the upcoming elections will not take place on an even playing field. Given the flawed structure of the elections, even political parties who have sought to work within the system have so far found themselves dominated and outmuscled in the process. There is a growing body of evidence that the elections will not be a step forward, but will rather consolidate military control.

The international community must take a stand. Numerous high-level international meetings are due to convene prior to the elections: US-ASEAN Summit on 24 September, Asia-Europe Meeting on 4-5 October, and the ASEAN Summit on 29-31 October. These meetings present a vital opportunity for key international players to develop a firm policy against the 2010 elections. The international community must not allow such rampant electoral manipulation to continue; if the current military regime refuses to play by the rules, neither will the future military-dominated government.

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