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The lengthy and arterial process of registering for elections in Burma this year mirrors that of Singapore, one of Burma’s principal economic backers, a prominent would-be candidate has said.
Political parties in Burma continue to await confirmation from the government-proxy Election Commission as to whether they can participate. The National Democratic Front (NDF), comprised of members of the now-disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) party, expect to get a response by the end of the week.
But there are several hurdles that parties must conquer before being permitted to run: an application for party registration must be submitted; upon approval, a policy guideline must then be approved before a second phase of party registration takes place. Once this is granted, parties can erect a signboard and set out on the campaign trail.
“We generally understood that the [system] is similar to that of Singapore – to put the political parties under control by the law – which in reality will cause difficulties,” said Thein Nyunt, head of the NDF.
Analysts also claim that Singapore’s election commission is controlled by the prime minister’s office, while parliamentary seats are allocated to cronies prior to balloting: similar accusations have been levelled at the Burmese elections, the country’s first in 20 years.
Several parties have complained that election rules are severely restricting their progress in terms of establishing themselves within the election realm. Ohn Lwin, from the registered National Political Alliances party, said that parties must inform township and division-level authorities of their activities.
“If [the Election Commission] was not satisfied with our conditions and we do not qualify [to be a party] then why not just deny our registration? It’s not right to restrict us after approving the registration,” he said.
“Now different townships…are swarming with [government] intelligence people and locals are scared to attend our meetings or to join the party after seeing them. When we asked [intelligence] why they were there, they said that they were just collecting information and assisting in case we needed help from them. But people are afraid of them.”
Thu Wei, head of the Democratic Party, a member of Burma’s ‘third force’, allied to neither opposition nor incumbent, said that the ruling junta had made sure there “wouldn’t be any worries for them” in elections this year.
“So I think they will make the elections free and fair. It doesn’t matter who gets hold of the power…[because] even if some other party has won, they will still transfer [the power].”
Additional reporting by Khin Hnin Htet