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New Burma election law ‘a farce’

Originally appeared in Business Mirror

March 11, 2010

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo called the new election law passed by Burma’s military junta as a “farce” as it fails to facilitate the release and participation in the elections of Nobel laureate and peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Philippines’ chief diplomat said Burma’s military junta had committed to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2007 to fulfill its own road map to democracy, which includes the holding of its first inclusive democratic elections and the release of Suu Kyi and the rest of the political prisoners.

The Philippines and Burma, renamed by junta leaders as Myanmar, are members of Asean, along with Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos.

“Unless they [referring to Burma’s junta] release Suu Kyi and allow her and her party to participate in the
elections, it’s [new election law] a farce and, therefore, contrary to their Road map to Democracy,” said Romulo in a statement on Thursday.

Burma’s junta leaders passed the Political Parties Registration Law on March 8. It bans people convicted by a court of law from party membership—which may force Suu Kyi’s expulsion from the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 20 years in self-exile. In August last year, the democracy icon and Nobel Peace laureate was convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest when she sheltered an American who swam to her lakeside residence. Her term of house arrest expires in November.

Burma Partnership, a network of rights groups in the Asia-Pacific region pushing for democracy in the military-ruled nation, said the passage of the new election law painted a “dire image” of the elections. The group said the junta has not even announced a date for holding elections that was supposed to be held in May this year.

The rights group has identified crucial loopholes in the new election law, which it viewed would still fail to democratize the nation.

Burma Partnership pointed out that the election commission formed by the junta to implement the new law will have the authority to convene the election and will exercise “final decision-making power throughout and administer and direct political parties.”

“This means that the elections will unfold according to the junta’s wishes,” said Burma Partnership.

The group added that most of the key political figures, including Suu Kyi and ethnic leaders, were barred from forming political parties and participating in the elections.

The new election law also requires political parties participating in the elections to abide by and protect the 2008 Constitution, which was criticized as undemocratic and fundamentally flawed.

The rights network said such provision shows that the regime does not envision the elections and the ensuing government to be a transformative step toward true democracy, but rather a means to maintain power.

Burma Partnership believes that Suu Kyi and her colleagues in the NLD may not be able to participate in the elections because most of them have been convicted and are still in detention. The new election law only allows party leaders to register for the upcoming elections within 60 days.

This post is in: News Clip