Email This Story :
Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition applied to re-register as a political party Friday, beginning its formal return to mainstream Burmese politics and paving the way for her to run in elections.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) announced a week ago it would sign up as a party again — after boycotting last year’s parliamentary poll — amid signs of reform in a country long dominated by the military.
Party officials have indicated that the 66-year-old Suu Kyi herself is likely to stand in upcoming by-elections, where 48 seats will be up for grabs, though no date has been set for a vote yet.
NLD filed papers at the national electoral commission in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday morning, according to an AFP journalist at the scene, and the government is expected to take at least a week to approve the application.
After decades of outright military rule, a much-criticised election in November last year — Burma’s first in 20 years — brought a nominally civilian government to power, albeit one dominated by the army and its proxies.
The new administration has surprised many observers with a series of reformist moves, including holding talks with Suu Kyi, passing a law giving workers the right to strike and releasing hundreds of political prisoners.
The NLD boycotted last year’s election mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time.
The party’s decision last Friday to end its boycott came on the same day the military-dominated government received a dramatic seal of approval from the United States for its nascent reforms.
After speaking directly to Nobel laureate Suu Kyi for the first time, President Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton would visit Burma next week – the first US secretary of state to do so in 50 years.
Obama said Clinton’s trip was designed to stoke “flickers” of democratic reform in a country that for decades has been blighted by military rule and international isolation.
In another diplomatic coup last week, Burma also won approval from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to chair the 10-nation bloc in 2014.
The NLD won a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but the then-ruling junta never allowed the party to take power. Suu Kyi, although a figurehead for the campaign, was under house arrest at the time.
Burmese President Thein Sein — a former general — told a small group of Burmese journalists in Indonesia on Saturday that he was happy about the NLD’s plans to re-enter mainstream politics and would welcome Suu Kyi to parliament.
Analysts say the return of the NLD will add to the legitimacy of the army-backed government, which is seeking to end its global isolation — but would also increase the relevance of the popular but long-excluded Suu Kyi.
After spending 15 of the past 22 years in detention, Suu Kyi told her party last week that they should contest all the seats available in the by-elections.