The party of long-sidelined opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has confirmed it will register again in a move that could presage its entry into Burma’s military-dominated parliament.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) today announced the decision following a three-hour meeting at its headquarters in Rangoon. Suu Kyi has been clear about her wish to see the party formed prior to the 1990 elections become a political force in Burma again after years spent marginalised by a hostile military regime.
A party official read out a statement today saying the NLD “has unanimously decided” to re-register as a political party and compete in the elections. Suu Kyi told party members this afternoon that the decision would “revive our political party’s movements”.
Following its boycott of the November 2010 elections, a decision that stemmed from electoral laws barring Suu Kyi from running for office, the party was dissolved. Recent amendments have been made however that will allow the party to compete for seats in the looming by-elections.
Not all are in agreement, however. Party co-founder Win Tin, a veteran Burmese politician who spent 19 years in jail before being released in 2008, told DVB earlier this month that while the NLD should register, “I don’t think it is really good to go into parliament.”
That sentiment is shared by the Kachin state wing of the party, which today voted for the party to register, but not compete in the by-elections. They claim that the NLD should not consider entering parliament until peace is brokered in Burma’s volatile border regions, where fighting has been raging for much of the year.
An NLD official who asked to remain anonymous told DVB today that the remaining 13 regional party wings had voted in favour.
There is concern that the NLD’s role in parliament will be little more than cosmetic, given the overwhelming dominance of the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won 80 percent of the vote last year with President Thein Sein as its leader.
The government may use Suu Kyi to further its democratic façade, some observers warn, whilst allowing the opposition only minimal leverage. Others say however that the once vice-like grip held by the military over Burma’s political arena is steadily being loosened, and the party could become a key stakeholder in the country’s future.
Responding to these concerns, Suu Kyi told a gathering at the headquarters today that: “One should not just focus on one’s dignity when working in politics but do what one thinks should be done. So I will run in the elections if I think we should.”
Suu Kyi herself has been positive about signs of progress in the country since the nominally civilian government came to power in March and believes President Thein Sein’s pledges of reform are genuine.
According to the domestic news journal, The Voice, the NLD will compete in more than 40 constituencies. Forty-eight seats are up for grabs.
Much to the frustration of would-be contenders, no date has yet been announced for the by-elections, prompting some parties to question whether they will be adequately prepared to compete.