USDP begins election campaign

The newly-formed political party led by Burmese prime minister Thein Sein has begun campaigning across Burma in lieu of elections this year.

A resident in Kaw Thaung town, in Burma’s southern Tenasserim division, said that local Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) members were going from door to door urging people to join the party.

“They were six women and one man going from door to door, looking at the residents’ ID cards and filling out [USDP] application forms for them,” said the resident. “The first paragraph on the application form said ‘Due to my belief and acceptance of the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s policy, I hereby apply for the [group’s] membership…’”

“After filling in the forms, they asked the residents to sign them. They did this without explaining anything and some people, afraid [of the government officials] and unaware [of the intention], gave their signatures.”

He said that mirrored campaigning done by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) during the referendum for the basic constitutions in 2008. He added that local authorities called a meeting yesterday and today to discuss the building of ballot stations.

A local resident in Rangoon’s Thongwa town said the USDP was persuading farmers to support them. USDP campaigners reportedly said the party’s ‘social’ wing, Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), had been the only group to provide farmers with funding.

He added that campaigners had told them “to vote as much as they can for such a sustainable party for the people”.

The head of Burma’s Election Commission, Thein Soe, recently rebuffed claims that Thein Sein was breaching election laws by heading the party because he had quit his military post.

The USDP is widely tipped to win the controversial elections in what critics say is a ploy to cement military rule in the country under the guise of a civilian government.

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