Burma accepts first election parties

Two political parties have been permitted to enter the next stage of registration for elections in Burma this year, while another 17 await approval.

The Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP) is headed by Aye Lwin, a former student activist turned politician, while the 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) is chaired by his younger brother, Ye Htun.

Both are part of the so-called ‘third force’ – allied to neither government nor opposition – although Aye Lwin has been accused of having close ties to the junta and is known for his campaigns against sanctions on Burma.

The two parties were among the first to submit their applications when the registration process opened last month. Fourteen other new parties have also registered, while three existing parties are also waiting to hear back on whether they can compete.

The parties’ applications were deemed “to be in accord with the Political Parties Registration Law and rules and thus the Commission has passed their applications on 22 April 2010,” the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said today.

“The said two groups are to submit their applications for registration as political parties in accord with the Political Parties Registration rule 7 within 30 days from the date of acceptance,” it added. “The Commission is scrutinizing the applications of the remaining groups.”

The registration process for the elections is complex: authorities are already scrutinising candidate backgrounds, while parties are required to go through several more stages before finally being approved to run in the polls.

No date has yet been set for the elections, the first in Burma since 1990 when the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory that was ignored by the junta, although rumours suggest they could be in October.

The NLD’s refusal to compete this year stems from election laws announced in March that bar party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating and force her expulsion if the NLD want to take part.

The laws are seen as symptomatic of the junta’s refusal to let go of power, as is the absence of any legitimate opposition entering the elections. Analysts believe that the ageing head of state, Than Shwe, will secure an influential role in a post-election ‘civilian’ government, but perhaps take more of a back seat.

Several proxy parties, such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), are being primed to play a leading role in Burma’s near future, while the NLD has been forced into the periphery of Burmese politics and will soon be legally abolished.

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