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Members of the National Democratic Force are expecting a tough ride in the April by-elections after the government last week gave approval to the opposition National League for Democracy to compete.
The party, founded by former high-ranking NLD members who disagreed with Aung San Suu Kyi’s boycott of the November 2010 polls and split in order to compete, will field 17 candidates in the coming vote, said Aung Myo Win, who is running in Pegu division.
But the approval for the NLD to re-enter mainstream politics will likely unnerve NDF candidates, given the tremendous affection Burmese have for Suu Kyi and her colleagues.
A presidential advisor said at the weekend that she could be awarded a position in the government if she is successful in April. “There is… a possibility she will be appointed to the government,” Nay Zin Latt told AFP.
“If she’s more interested in legislative matters, there can be a suitable duty for her at parliament.”
Parties must submit full lists of candidates by the end of January if they are to compete on 1 April for one of 48 seats available across Burma’s three parliaments – 40 in the People’s Parliament, six in the National Parliament and two in the Regions and States Parliament.
The NDF already occupies 16 seats, against the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)’s 873, but says it will not contest seats in the Regions and States Parliament.
Relations between the NLD and NDF soured after the 2010 elections – NLD leaders voiced criticism that the splinter party’s decision to compete offered succour to an illegitimate vote that would inevitably be won by the USDP.
But Suu Kyi’s decision to contest the by-elections has also attracted mixed responses, with the co-founder of the NLD, Win Tin, saying late last year that he did not think she should enter parliament.
Critics of the decision say her leverage in Burma’s political arena will remain limited as long as the army continues to dominate parliament – in addition to the clout of the USDP, around a quarter of seats were awarded to military officials prior the November 2010 elections.