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Burma’s principal opposition party is to launch a legal challenge against election laws that bar its leader from running for office and require her expulsion if the party is to participate.
The recently announced laws have been met with outrage by Burmese opposition groups, rights groups and even world leaders, with British prime minister Gordon Brown reportedly urging UN chief Ban Ki-moon to hold an emergency meeting on the situation.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) party, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, met on 20 March and agreed to launch the legal challenge.
“We discussed how we are going to approach this in accordance with the law,” said party spokesperson, Nyan Win. “We are now preparing and [the case] will be on legal grounds soon.
“For now, I don’t think we can tell you what is in our plan because this is what we will raise in court,” he added.
The likely outcome of the challenge is hard to predict, with Burmese courts tightly controlled by the ruling junta. The election laws appear to have been carefully crafted by the military generals to ensure that they remain in control after polling, likely under the guise of a civilian government.
Suu Kyi’s multiple periods of detention under house arrest, coupled with her marriage to a foreigner, Michael Aris, make her ineligible for office under the 2008 constitution and recent party registration laws.
Nyan Win said last week that he was “extremely surprised” by the severity of the laws that also require the party to expel Suu Kyi if it wants to figure in the elections.
He added that the NLD was facing “a crisis” which could only be remedied with a meeting between all members of the party’s Central Executive Committee, which is unlikely given that Suu Kyi is its chief.
Media inside Burma has reportedly been banned from publishing non-government-sanctioned opinions about the election laws while regulations continue to trickle out on a week-by-week basis.
Although no date has officially been set, it will be Burma’s first elections since 1990, when the NLD won and landslide victory which was never honoured by the junta.
Much of the international community has said that all of Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners must be released before elections can be considered free and fair.