UDP blasts ‘stubborn’ election authority

Burma’s supreme election body is unyielding and does not care about the people, the chairman of the Union Democratic Party (UDP) has said.

The comments came in response to apparent intransigence by the Election Commission (EC), which has refused to bow to requests by UDP leaders to ease repressive election laws and create dialogue with the opposition by 25 August, six weeks prior to the 7 November election date.

“They have never responded to any of our demands. Our responsibility is to keep the people informed – we will do whatever is necessary to the extent that is possible,” UDP chairman Thein Htay said.

He added that myriad controls were being implemented by the government-appointed commission at a time when the “political system…needs to be changed”.

The UDP, one of the more prominent parties featuring in Burma’s first elections in 20 years, belongs to the so-called ‘third force’ in Burmese politics, outwardly allied to neither the opposition nor incumbent.

Thein Htay said that due to frustration at the election laws, which ban former prisoners from running and which severely curtail parties’ ability to campaign effectively, the UDP had decided to field only three candidates, one in Bago division and two in Rangoon division.

Included in the raft of election campaigning laws is a ban on the chanting of slogans and waving of flags during processions, as well as a requirement that parties give at least a week’s notice before holding any public gathering.

Earlier this month UDP leader Phyo Min Thein quit his post, also in protest at lack of election law reform. He had sent a letter to party colleagues announcing his resignation and lamenting the fact that increasingly repressive election laws were being rolled out by the Burmese government.

The UDP was founded earlier this year and quickly became one of the more vocal parties. Out of the 49 parties that have registered for elections, 41 have so far been approved by the Election Commission.

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