New opposition’s election hopes ‘not high’

Expectations of Burma’s looming elections are low among the National Democratic Force (NDF) party, which was granted permission to register for the polls yesterday.

Following the announcement that the NDF, formed of senior members of the defunct National League for Democracy (NLD) party, had been approved to continue to the next stage of registration, leaders warned that gaining any political leverage in Burma following the polls is unlikely.

“It’s not that we believe there will be democracy after the elections or that the parliament will give birth to a democratic system,” said Than Nyein, spokesperson for the NDF.

The 2008 constitution awards nearly a quarter of parliamentary seats to the military even prior to voting, meaning that the likelihood of an overarching civilian presence in the post-election government remains a dim prospect.

“We are joining the elections because we believe we need to stand legally as a political party in order to do proper work for democracy,” he said. “Even if we cannot walk on the path we are building now, our new generations will. We are not holding any high hopes”.

The formation of the NDF has angered many within the old opposition who claim they have defied the principals behind the NLD’s boycott of the elections, which led to the party’s dissolution. Pro-democracy activists and Burma observers are now split between supporting the symbolic ideals of the boycott, and acknowledging the need for a semblance of an opposition in Burma’s first elections in 20 years.

But the 42 parties who have lodged their bid to run in the elections face problems over funding. Election laws announced in March state that each party pay 500,000 kyat ($US500) to register, and then a further 500,000 kyat per candidate.

“It will be hard for us to completely overcome this [financial] problem,” says Than Nyein. “However, we have some party members who will support us and civilians too to some level. So we plan to solve the problems locally; our parliamentary candidates and party members will find the funding by themselves in their regions.”

The NDF now needs to present its party leader and deputy leader to Burma’s Election Commission (EC), which will act as the supreme authority during the polls. The impartiality of the EC has been questioned by analysts: it’s head,Thein Soe, was vice chief justice of Burma’s supreme court and former military judge advocate general.

Once the commission has vetted the party’s leaders, which include former NLD pokesperson Khin Maung Swe, and examined its manifesto, the NDF will then propose the party flag and the insignia.

Date for the elections have not yet been set, although it is rumoured they will be held in October this year.

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