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Burmese authorities are reportedly collecting information on the backgrounds of candidates looking to contest elections this year, the head of a registered party has said.
The 19 parties that have so far registered for Burma’s first elections in 20 years, rumoured to be in October, are yet to receive an approval.
But, according to Aye Lwin, chairperson of the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP), one of the more prominent parties looking to run this year, the group learnt recently that checks were being carried out on the histories of party members.
“[The authorities] are officially collecting background information on about 27 or 28 [Central Executive Committee candidates],” he said. Fifteen of those belong to the UMFNP, while the rest are members of the closely-allied 88 Generation Students (Union of Myanmar), a party led by his younger brother, Ye Htun.
Aye Lwin, known to have close ties with the ruling junta, was a student activist in the 1988 uprising against military rule before switching sides and campaigning against international sanctions on Burma.
The deadline for parties to register expires in the second week of May. Ohn Lwin, communications officer for the National Political Alliances, speculated that the approvals would be given by the Election Commission (EC) once the deadline is up.
“It is likely that the [EC] is waiting until they get [applications] from everyone,” he said. “We are waiting to be informed and will not yet start our [campaign] activities, such as releasing statements; we are worried that we will be seen as crossing boundaries if we start now.”
Out of the 19 parties registered, 16 have been formed in the past few months. The majority of these are either outwardly pro-junta or part of the so-called ‘third force’ in Burmese politics that are allied to neither incumbent nor opposition.
It is unclear what role these parties will play in a post-election Burma: observers have said that the polls are little more than a show of legitimacy for the ruling junta, which will continue its hold on power under the guise of a civilian government.
One of the registered parties, the Kachin State Progressive Party, is comprised of members of three Kachin ceasefire groups, including the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).
The KIO is now at loggerheads with the ruling junta following its refusal to transform into a Border Guard Force (BFG), and military analysts have warned that fighting may break out.
The BGF issue is seen as a means for the junta to shore up support and bolster its army size in the run-up to elections, with border units ostensibly coming under the command of Naypyidaw.