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Election Commission Wipes Away Opposition

By Burma Partnership  •  September 20, 2010

On 14 September, the Union Election Commission (EC) officially announced the dissolution of the National League for Democracy and nine other political parties. The NLD and five other political parties – the Union Pao National Organization, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy Party, the Shan State Kokang Democratic Party, and the Wa National Development Party – were dissolved because they failed to re-register under section 25 of the junta’s Political Parties’ Registration Law. An additional five political parties were banned because they failed to meet the minimum candidate requirements.

State-run media that carried the news of the dissolutions also accused the NLD of “attempting to mislead the people into misunderstanding the law”. The article threatened those opposing the elections with jail time and large fines.

On 16 September, the EC rejected the applications of 14 leading Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) members, who had applied to run as independent candidates after their party’s registration application was rejected due to links with the Kachin Independence Organization. KSPP Secretary Tu Raw said the party and its members had been refused registration because “the USDP knows that it is impossible for them to compete with the KSPP in Kachin State.”

On the same day, the EC announced that polling would not be conducted in over 3,400 villages in ethnic areas across Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Mon and Shan States because of security concerns. The commission has declared that those constituencies will not be in the “condition to hold a free and fair elections” due to the presence of ceasefire and non-ceasefire ethnic armed groups. One Shan leader has estimated that in Shan State alone as many as two million people – around 30 percent of the population – would not be allowed to vote. As the cancellation of polls was a possibility was outlined in the regime’s election laws, the move is not surprising. However, it does illustrate the regime’s efforts to marginalize ethnic voices in the upcoming polls. It is now expected that these constituencies will be awarded to USDP candidates.

The EC’s recent announcements have effectively brushed aside any party that could take votes from the USDP and other junta-backed parties, and denied the voice of millions of voters. As the regime takes greater steps to withhold fundamental democratic rights, we see that there is a growing likelihood of intensified resistance. Given the regime’s propensity for violent crackdowns, we are deeply concerned that the situation in the lead up to the elections will continue to deteriorate.

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