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The party headed by Burma’s prime minister and comprised of senior junta officials will “definitely” win the elections, the mayor of Rangoon has said.
Aung Thein Linn is standing as a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate in Rangoon’s South Okkalapa township, the Myanmar Times said. The party is led by Prime Minister Thein Sein and includes powerful former junta officials, including third-in-command Shwe Mann.
His proclamation will do little to allay fears that the results of Burma’s first elections are a foregone conclusion. He added: “I expect that I will definitely win my seat at this year’s election…If I win in South Okkalapa, I will focus on speeding up development in my constituency. I believe that other elected representatives will try to do the same.”
Aung Thein Linn has previously been vocal about denying the need for outside election observers, a fact that has cast doubt over the junta’s mantra of a “free and fair” vote. He will be competing for the Pyithu Hluttaw, or the People’s Parliament – the lower house.
The USDP were formed out of the military’s so-called ‘social organisation’, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which was an attempt at a civilian wing of the junta. Despite having some 24 million members, the USDA’s recruitment policy was regarded with suspicion as allegations of coercion abounded, including the signing of school children by default to help boost member numbers.
Similar allegations have dogged the USDP, which is reported to have built its headquarters next to the sole entrance to the new parliament building in Naypyidaw.
The South Okkalapa seat is, in theory at least, by no means a safe win for the USDP. Its main pro-junta rival in the elections, the pro-military rivals the National Unity Party (NUP), is contesting the seat, as well as the National Democratic Front (NDF), which evolved out of the dissolved National League for Democracy (NLD).
The NLD won the South Okkalapa seats for the upper and lower house in the previous elections in 1990, when only one parliament was being contested. Voters then roundly rejected the military, as they had done in the in Burma.
The 7 November polls are only the second since 1962, and the fifth since Burma won independence from Britain in 1948.
South Okkalapa was also witness to staunch anti-military protests in 1988. How much has changed in the opinions of the populace will be somewhat in contention, and whilst irregular polling is always a possibility, an election boycott by factions within the pro-democracy movement could also be telling.
Political analyst Aung Naing Oo believes that a boycott would “play into the hands of the pro-military parties”, adding that the coming elections were riddled with “uncertainties” and predictions about the results therefore risky.