Democratic Party registers for elections

Burma’s recently formed Democratic Party has submitted its application for elections this year, making it the fourth such group to do so since registration began last week.

The group, part of the ‘third force’ in Burmese politics that holds no stated allegiances to either the incumbent or opposition, has a high-profile member base which includes Than Than Nu, daughter of former prime minister U Nu, and Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein, daughter of U Nu’s deputy, Kyaw Nyein.

“We will try to compete for the People’s Parliament and the National Parliament,” said party leader Thu Wei. “But we can’t say for sure for the Administrative Regions Parliament – we haven’t thought about it yet.”

The cost of registering candidates for the elections is steep, and Thu Wei said that this could be a barrier to full participation. Parties are required to pay 500,000 kyat ($US500) per candidate, so if they are looking to compete for all 500 seats in parliament the cost would reach 250 million kyat ($US250,000).

“Rich politicians are rare in Burma so [parties] will struggle for the money,” he said. “We are worried that things may not happen as we are expecting. For now, our members are contributing their own cash [for the party] but it won’t be enough for the elections.

He added that in Burma’s last elections in 1990 parties had collected donations from the public “in exchange for their opinion and policies”.

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Monday decided to boycott the elections after laws were announced that ban NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running and force her expulsion if the party is to participate.

On the same day the pro-government National Unity Party (NUP) submitted its election registration form. There have also been unconfirmed reports that the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a junta-backed ‘civil society’ group that is often accused of intimidation and harassment of opposition, has registered.

Two other parties, the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics and 88 Generation Students (Union of Myanmar), both run by another ‘third force’ politician, Aye Lwin,  have also registered.

The election laws unveiled in the past fortnight have drawn international condemnation as they appear to cement fears that the elections later this year will not be free and fair.

The NLD’s decision not to participate has received support from Western policy makers but mixed reactions from inside Burma. Under the laws, the party which was born following the infamous 1988 uprising will now be abolished and unable to officially operate within Burma’s political arena.

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