A number of parties competing in Burma’s elections this year have said the formation of a new political party by prime minister Thein Sein violates Burma’s own domestic laws.
According to the Political Party Registration Law, unveiled in March, government employees are barred from setting up their own political parties. Thein Sein, who last week stood down from his military post but remains prime minister, has announced that he will head the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which recently registered for the polls.
The USDP sounds eerily similar to the government-proxy social organisation, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), although no concrete link has yet been verified.
If there is a link, then the party would be guilty of political corruption because the USDA is financed by the government.
“During the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League era [1945 to 1962], the law prohibited government workers from setting up political parties and standing for the elections,” said Thu Wei, head of the Democracy Party. “However, the prime minister’s position back then was not recognised as a government employee, so we are not yet clear what the law now is.
He added however that it was “completely inappropriate” to use the USDA’s name. “We dislike and do not accept this,” he said. “This is unfair and cunning, and is meant to confuse people during the elections. If such a party becomes the government, lies and wrongdoings will continue.”
Ye Htun, brother of the prominent Burmese politician Aye Lwin and head of Union of Myanmar 88 Generation Student Youths party, said that Burma was dealing in “messy politics”.
“Today’s election laws were written by the current military government who are like the referee on the pitch,” he said. “Now the referee is bringing his own ball into the game, play the game himself, and he will shoot it into the goalpost that he himself positioned. This is quite pointless in politics.”
Khin Maung Swe, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), which today marks its termination as a political after refusing to run in the elections, said that if Thein Sein was still receiving a government salary, then his new role as USDP head would be illegal.
Much of the international community has condemned the election laws, which effectively block the NLD from participating and appear to be a ploy aimed at keeping the military government in power. More than 25 parties have so far registered for the elections.