France has voiced its “profound shock” at the official dissolution of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, a sentiment echoed by much of the international community, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
State media in Burma on Wednesday announced the disbandment of the party formed 22 years ago by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now under house arrest. Under Burmese law, its decision not to compete in 7 November elections – largely because it would have forced the resignation of Suu Kyi – meant that the party would no longer have legal status.
“This profoundly shocking situation is the result of iniquitous electoral laws dating from March,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters yesterday. “Evidently, conditions do not exist for November 7 elections to be considered democratic and credible.”
Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said that Ban “notes with some concern” the decision by Burma’s junta-appointed Election Commission (EC) to dissolve the NLD, which won the last polls in 1990 by a landslide, although the junta held onto power.
“The Secretary General once again urges the Myanmar [Burmese] authorities to ensure conditions conducive for a fully inclusive and participatory electoral process,” he added.
The UN under Ban has appeared unable to persuade the ruling junta to reform – Ban’s visit to the pariah in July last year bore few results, while a scathing internal UN report leaked to press in July slammed the secretariat’s “irrelevance” in Burma and other crisis-torn countries. This comes on top of accusations of hypocrisy on the junta’s rights record: whilst foreign minister of Korea, Ban called the highly controversial Shwe gas project, which has been widely slammed by rights groups, a “win win” situation.
International condemnation continues to be levelled at the military generals, who have ruled in various guises since a coup in 1962. The US recently gave its backing to a UN inquiry to investigate possible war crimes committed by the junta, although the UN said yesterday that the inquiry had “not gone beyond an idea”
Among Burma pro-democracy faction, the debate over the elections no longer revolves around which party to vote for, but whether to vote at all. Those loyal to the NLD say that a vote would legitimise the widely derided 2008 constitution and the elections, which appear set to cement military rule behind the mask of a civilian government.
But opposition forces do exist, and the formation of the National Democratic Force (NDF), a new party consisting of former NLD members who rejected the idea of an election boycott, has looked to carry forward the torch first lit by the NLD in 1988.
Its formation however has angered the old guard of the NLD, who claim it plays into the hands of a military elite desperate for legitimacy. But with its demise, the future of the party long held as the bastion of the pro-democracy movement in Burma looks uncertain.
The announcement yesterday was met with a mixture of resentment and defiance by the NLD’s long-time spokesperson, Nyan Win. “The commission has no right or authority over the organisations which did not register with them,” he told reporters at the party’s headquarters. “This process is still ongoing. We will carry on through peaceful political means.”