Burmese PM ‘can run’ in elections

Burma’s prime minister Thein Sein is legally allowed to run in elections this year, the country’s Election Commission said following allegations that his inclusion would breach election laws.

Election Commission (EC) chairman Thein Soe said today that the prime minister’s move was in “conformity with the law” as he has officially resigned from his military post. Thein Sein is due to head the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a product of the ‘mass organisation’, Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

The EC head added that “ministers are political posts, not state service personnel”. Agriculture minister Htay Oo then echoed this: “Ministers and deputy ministers are merely the political posts, not government servants,” he said.

But the issue raises questions about the inherent conflict of interests in the current Burmese state, with no mention of whether military personnel are considered “service personnel” or “political posts”.

The announcement followed a statement by Thein Soe in which he rebuffed international calls for election observers to be present during polling, and said that “the nation has a lot of experience with elections. We do not need election watchdogs to come here.”

Election candidates will be allowed to appoint a representative and helper to observe polling stations and the ballots are to be counted in front of the voters, Thein Soe said. Critics say the polls are aimed at simply entrenching the ruling generals’ power.

Details surrounding the elections are unclear: the government is yet to announce a date, although rumours suggest it could be in October. This would be one month prior to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party was legally dissolved last week.

The NLD had refused to meet a 6 May deadline to re-register as a party – a move that would have forced it to expel Suu Kyi – and boycotted the vote.

Around 30 parties have now registered; a splinter group of the NLD, which includes senior party members, has said that it will register under the name of the National Democratic Force, providing the junta with its most potent opposition.

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