NDF says election boycott ‘meaningless’

The boycott of elections by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party is meaningless and will only aid the military government, Burma’s new opposition party believes.

The National Democratic Force (NDF) has riled the old guard of Burma’s pro-democracy movement after announcing it would take part in controversial elections this year. The NDF formed as a breakaway group from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which was forced to disband following its decision not to run.

“We [believe] that boycotting the elections would be meaningless as it will only create more space for candidates of undemocratic parties and eventually lead them to seats in the parliaments,” said Khin Maung Swe, senior party member and a former spokesperson of the NLD.

The group yesterday met with Robin Lerner, counsel of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and assistant of one-time US presidential candidate, John Kerry. Lerner also met with members of the NLD and ethnic groups.

Khin Maung Swe said that the party “does not have high expectations that the elections will be fair” but was participating for “the sake of the people”.

“If one ruins the polls, there will only be a prolonging of the military ruling system. No one will be able to boycott the polls successfully,” he said.

The comments are likely to anger the NLD more; there were reported to have been fissures at the party’s senior level as it debated whether or not to participate. It eventual decision was largely down to election laws that would have forced the party to expel Suu Kyi if it wanted to run.

Another spokesperson for the NLD, Nyan Win, said that the group had told Lerner that their role in a post-election Burma was uncertain because “political changes could still occur”.

“With this current situation and the political environment, free and fair elections will not be possible. The army in the constitution has given itself the leading role in politics and we could not accept that,” he said.

“Also there was another factor for our decision [to boycott elections] – we couldn’t expel our members, including the party leader, who are being politically detained. [Lerner] said she understood our situation.”

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