The National League for Democracy (NLD) and 39 other political parties in Burma have been dissolved by the Union Election Commission (UEC) under the recently-amended Political Parties Registration Law. Major state and region-based parties such as the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Kayah State Democratic Party, and the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Party were also dissolved by the UEC.
March 28 was the deadline set by the regime for all political parties in Burma to register or face dissolution. A general election was to be held within one year of the 2021 military coup, but the state of emergency has been repeatedly extended making an election date uncertain. Many pro-democracy parties, including the NLD and SNLD, declined to register with the UEC as they refused to recognize the legitimacy of the regime. Eight out of the 40 political parties dissolved won 987 of the 1,161 parliamentary seats that were contested in the 2020 general election. The remaining 174 parliamentary seats were won by 11 of the political parties that re-registered with the UEC. The NLD won a landslide victory in the 2015 and 2020 general elections. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, along with NLD officials, have been jailed since Feb. 1, 2021. Suu Kyi faces the next 33 years in prison.
Anti-coup resistance groups have called on the public to boycott any regime-planned election and have vowed to disrupt the electoral process. There have been several reports of attacks on census officials collecting data that could be used for voter rolls. Countries such as the U.S. and Malaysia have said that any elections staged under this regime would be illegitimate. The National Unity Government (NUG) acting President Duwa Lashi La said he respects and honors all political parties that do not recognize the regime’s “fake election.”
“At the same time, we found that Min Aung Hlaing can no longer control his armed forces and is scared of our NUG and PDFs that control large swathes of territories. It is clear that he was showing his fear of resistance forces when he declared to destroy our groups,” added Duwa Lashi La. The conflict monitoring organization International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report on March 28 urging the international community to declare that any election held by the regime without the participation of the NLD, and other democratic parties, would be considered illegitimate and could lead to more violence.
“The majority of the population fiercely oppose going to the polls to legitimize the military’s political control, so we will see violence ratchet up if the regime seeks to impose a vote, and resistance groups seek to disrupt them. To prevent this escalation, western and regional actors must send a concerted message that polls are illegitimate, and withhold electoral support; while the parallel National Unity Government should unambiguously oppose resistance attacks on electoral targets.” said Richard Horsey, the ICG Senior Adviser on Burma. Much of the country remains contested between the Burma Army and Ethnic Resistance Organizations (EROs), supported by the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), casting widespread doubt that the regime could logistically hold a nationwide election with rampant insecurity.