PM’s party opens offices to roars of support

The pro-government Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) today opened offices across the country, with hundreds of supporters seen chanting and waving flags.

Footage captured by DVB journalists at the opening of the Mandalay office showed supporters decked out in USDP regalia and shouting victory slogans, as well as lauding the “multi-party elections” in a responsorial style led by a master of ceremonies on a nearby stage.

The USDP is led by Burma’s prime minister, Thein Sein, and is widely tipped to win the first elections to be held in the country in two decades.

The 200-strong ceremony appeared to edge close to violating restrictive campaigning laws announced by the Election Commission that include a ban on the chanting of slogans and waving of flags “in processions”.

Individuals deemed guilty of breaking these laws, that state-run media has said will guarantee free and fair elections but which have received international condemnation, can land the perpetrator with a one-year prison sentence.

The laws are typically vague and malleable: another regulation includes applying a week in advance of holding a public gathering, whilst speeches or slogans that apparently tarnish the image of the military are also banned.

The USDP has recently been the subject of numerous accusations of election irregularities, while competing candidates have claimed that it is receiving preferential treatment.

The party evolved from the so-called mass organisation, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which until it was recently disbanded had held Senior General Than Shwe as one of its patrons.

The organisation was implicated in the 2003 Depayin massacre, in which some 70 opposition supporters were killed, and has been employed by the government to harass and intimidate pro-democracy activists.

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