Burma by-elections ‘not until 2012’

Amidst growing fanfare surrounding opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s looming return to politics, the speaker of Burma’s lower house has cautioned that the by-elections that could herald the Nobel laureate’s entry to parliament remain some way off.

The vote had originally been mooted for November this year, but failed to materialise. Expectations that they are around the corner were tempered today by Shwe Mann, who said today in a press briefing in Naypyidaw that three months’ notice needed to be given before the polls are held.

“Since no announcement has yet been made, one can assume there will be no elections for at least three months,” a journalist at the briefing quoted the speaker as saying.

A number of parties eyeing the 48 vacant seats in Burma’s parliament have spoken of their frustration at the lack of a date for the by-elections. The opposition National Democratic Force lamented last month that it left them unable to prepare properly for canvassing.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) today handed in their application for registering as a political party, and the Nobel laureate has suggested she will compete for a seat in the military-dominated parliament.

What impact she will make remains to be seen, although some observers fear her potential presence there will be little more than symbolic given the overwhelming might of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won 80 percent of the vote in last year’s elections.

Shwe Mann however welcomed the NLD’s return, after it was dissolved earlier this year for boycotting the 2010 elections. The journalist told DVB that Shwe Mann “would welcome her on behalf of the People’s Parliament if she was planning to compete for it”.

He also praised the decision by the US to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma next week, the most high-level diplomatic call that Washington has made on Burma since 1955.

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