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Threat of Civil War and Unjust Election Laws, Recipe for Democracy?

By Burma Partnership  •  March 15, 2010

On 8 March, the junta began releasing its election laws. The first two to be released—the Election Commission and Political Party Registration Laws—made it clear that these elections will be truly undemocratic and carried out exactly as the junta wants. Political parties will now have 60 days—until 7 May—to submit their registration in order to run in the elections. Some parties are already preparing to register, including at least three organized by the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), and the pro-junta National Political Alliance, consisting of nine smaller groups.

On 11 March, the junta released the Pyithu Hluttaw (or People’s Parliament) Electoral Law, repealing that from 1989 and thereby annulling the results of the 1990 elections in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a majority of seats. Recognizing the results of the last election was one of the steps towards national reconciliation, laid out in the NLD’s Shwegondaing Declaration. The junta’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue with the democratically elected NLD and ethnic leaders, and these unjust election laws, further prove that their intent is not for genuinely democratic elections.

Tension has been mounting along Burma’s Northeastern borders with China and Thailand, as the latest deadline by which ceasefire and armed ethnic groups were to join the junta’s Border Guard Force has come and gone. According to junta sources, the military has recently moved as many as 70,000 troops into the area. Both China and Thailand are anticipating and preparing for an influx of new refugees.

The military has explicitly told the United Wa State Army “to expect use of force” if they do not agree to join their Border Guard Force by today’s deadline. The Wa commander himself said there was an 80% likelihood of war. After a week-long meeting, the Kachin Independence Organization has expressed that they continue to seek dialogue with the junta over the matter, however, the general in charge of the Northern Regional Command told them he expected a “yes or no” answer. With the election laws, the junta now has a new strategy up its sleeve: the hand-picked Election Commission can decide to not hold the elections in areas where armed ethnic groups have failed to join the Border Guard Force, under the pretense of “security reasons.” By threatening to engage in civil war, the junta is further destroying an  essential condition for there to be truly democratic elections in Burma this year—long-awaited national reconciliation and the establishment of democratic federal union where ethnic nationalities’ equal rights will be guaranteed.

Already, the international community is responding to the election laws with disappointment. The Philippines’ Foreign Minister, Alberto Romulo said, the elections will be “a complete farce and therefore contrary to [the junta’s] roadmap to democracy,” unless Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is released and allowed to participate in the elections. The US slammed the junta’s election laws as a ‘mockery’ of democracy, and said their new policy of engagement with the junta appears to be failing. Additional statements from governments around the world can be found in the “International” section below. These latest developments show the true colors of the junta’s elections. The international community must take a stronger stance: decisively and publicly denounce the elections and refuse to recognize the results.

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