Pro-junta party rejects talk of support

One of the two main pro-Burmese junta parties running in elections this year has said that accusations of a close relationship with the military generals are false.

Speaking to DVB this week, the spokesperson of the National Unity Party (NUP), Han Shwe, said that “there is no link” between his party and the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The NUP came second in Burma’s last elections in 1990, losing to the National League for Democracy (NLD), although the junta retained power.

The NUP have said they will field close to 1000 candidates for the 7 November polls, ranking them one of the strongest contenders: in terms of muscle power, their only real threat is the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is headed by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and will field a similar number of runners.

Relations between the NUP and the government remain murky: while observers say the party receives significant support from the top brass, it is seen as less emphatic than the backing the USDP gets. Moreover, a number of NUP candidates who were expected to sail through the vetting by the junta-appointed Election Commission (EC) have been rejected.

Accusations of financial backing from the government have trailed the NUP, but Han Shwe said that these too were false. “We didn’t take a penny from the government…to start our party; I can make this very clear statement.”

Similar allegations have been launched at the USDP, which many see as the offspring of the recently-disbanded Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a so-called ‘mass organisation’ with huge wealth and swathes of property across Burma. Reports surfaced shortly after their dissolution that Thein Sein’s party had inherited USDA funds.

The rejection of two of the NUP candidates stems from a law that bans people not born of Burmese parents from running. It is one of a number of strict election laws fashioned by the military government, which has ruled Burma in various guises since 1962 and has made so-called “loyalty to the Union” a cornerstone of its governance.

Lists of eligible voters have also been announced, but detained opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi is not one of them; as a serving prisoner, she cannot legally vote. There are an estimated 30 million eligible voters across the country.

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