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Asia-pacific

First election in two decades to be held on November 7

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-08-13

The date for much-anticipated parliamentary elections in Burma (Myanmar) has been set for November 7, state media have reported, while human rights groups continued to criticise the obstruction of political opposition by the ruling military junta.

REUTERS - Myanmar will hold its first parlimentary elections in two decades on Nov. 7, state media said on Friday, ending months of speculation over the timing of the widely criticised poll in the army-ruled country.

As of this week, 40 parties had registered with the military-appointed Election Commission to take part in the first civilian government in almost half a century in the reclusive, resource-rich country of 48 million people.

The United States, Britain and many human rights groups have said the elections would be illegitimate if the junta denies a role to thousands of political opponents now in prison, including detained Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
 
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, which won a landslide victory in the last elections in 1990 only to be denied power by the military, refused to register with the authorities in protest at what it called “unjust” election laws.
 
Suu Kyi, daughter of the hero of the country’s campaign for independence from British rule, was first detained in 1989, a year after she emerged as a champion of political reform during an unsuccessful student-led uprising for democracy.
 
She has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention and remains under house arrest, while more than 2,000 political prisoners are behind bars. Her party has been dissolved.
 
At least seven parties registered with the election commission are believed to be proxies of the military, which will retain control of key ministries and enjoy a 25 percent quota of parliamentary seats under a new constitution. The armed forces chief will be more senior than the president.
 
One of Myanmar’s biggest opposition political parties, the Union Democracy Party (UDP), threatened this week to pull out of the elections if there were signs of foul play by the ruling military in the run-up to the polls.
 
Some parties have accused the regime’s military intelligence unit of spying on and trying to intimidate their members.
 
Political analysts and diplomats, however, say the election could mark a turning point which, over the longer term, delivers a gradual transition of power to a civilian government free of military control. They add that this would be an evolutionary process rather than a junta-inspired shift.

 

 

Date created : 2010-08-13

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