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The Burmese government has announced that 37 parties will run in elections this year but they cannot begin canvassing on television and radio until later this month.
The list of parties approved by the Election Commission (EC) to run was published in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper today in the same column that it announced the formal dissolution of the opposition National League for Democracy, winners of Burma’s last election in 1990. Their absence has become a potent symbol of the controversy surrounding the elections.
The 37 approved are a mixed bag of opposition, pro-junta and ‘third force’ parties, the latter outwardly allied to neither opposition nor incumbent. Among the scope of parties are candidates from either end of Burma’s political spectrum, with former senior NLD members to be pitted against the current Burmese prime minister.
What the list doesn’t portray is the significant clout that pro-junta parties hold over the competition, with the two key proxies of the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National Unity Party (NUP), likely to field close to 1000 candidates each. In contrast, three of the most prominent opposition and third force parties – the National Democratic Force (NDF), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Union Democracy Party (UDP) – will between them field less than 230.
Regulations governing parties’ abilities to campaign on television and radio have also been reaffirmed: no media work shall be done prior to 24 September and after 30 October, eight days prior to the vote.
Parties wishing to broadcast campaign messages must “apply with the manuscript for permission to the Union Election Commission at least seven days ahead of the date,” the newspaper said. “The application must not exceed seven A4-size pages.”
Even after the manuscript is approved, speakers must stick to stringent las set by the junta-appointed EC that include a ban on content that will “harm ‘non-disintegration of the Union’…‘perpetuation of sovereignty’ [and] that can harm security, the rule of law, and community peace,” the New Light said. Parties are also ordered not to “disobey” or “tarnish the image of the State”. No further definition of these laws is given.
The parties eligible to compete in the 7 November polls, Burma’s first in 20 years, are as follows:
Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organization (MKNSO), National Unity Party, Lahu National Development Party, Kokang Democracy and Unity Party, Pa-O National Organization (PNO), Democratic Party (Myanmar), Kayan National Party, Rakhine State National Force of Myanmar, Kayin Peoples Party, Wa National Unity Party, Taaung (Palaung) National Party, All Mon Region Democracy Party, Democracy and Peace Party, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, United Democratic Party (UDP), 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar), Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics, National Political Alliances League, Chin National Party, Wunthanu NLD (Union of Myanmar), New Era People’s Party, Union Democracy Party, Peace and Diversity Party, Chin Progressive Party, Inn National Development Party, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, Wa Democratic Party, Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, National Democratic Party for Development, Union Solidarity and Development Party, Ethnic National Development Party, Kaman National Progressive Party, Khami National Development Party, National Democratic Force Party, Unity and Democracy Party (Kachin State), Kayin State Democracy and Development Party, National Development and Peace Party.