VOA Burmese Blog

April 23, 2010

The 2010 Elections and the Parties…

Filed under: Uncategorized — voaburmese @ 9:00 pm

NOTE from Blogger:

I received a tweet today ( a twitter message), and the tweet said that there was so much information on the NLD and not enough information on the other opposition parties in Burma. This is surprisingly true. NLD is always in the news that we often forget about the other parties that play such major roles in Burma.

As I began to research more on the upcoming elections and the political parties, I got confused as I read Burma’s constitution and the laws and rules surrounding the elections. There is no word to describe the state of confusion I had; and if I were confused just reading about the elections, just think of the confusion that must inundate the political parties and the voters.

I have tried my best to simplify it the best I can without sounding too intricate on the rules and what the political parties must abide by in order to campaign. Please note that Burma’s elections will be updated continually on the blog so if I am missing something, I will bring it up the next time. Just comment to get your thoughts heard too.  

 ( Men reading about election laws in Burmese newspaper; Photo: AP)

2010 Elections Update- and the parties that are running

19 political parties applied to run in the 2010 general elections, and so far only 2 parties have been accepted by the Electoral Commission to run. The 88 Generation Student Youth also known as the Union of Myanmar Party, and the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics Party were approved by the EC.

The election law states that political parties must register with the Election Commission first. Only when the parties are approved, can political parties start campaigning. The registration deadline is on May 6th.

The National League for Democracy (  the NLD) has withdrawn from the elections stating that the electoral laws are unjust and unfair. The NLD is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and in 1988- this opposition party ran against the military junta  winning 80% of electoral votes. The military nullified the votes stating that the NLD had cheated.

 ( Pro Democracy meeting; Photo: AP)

VOTING:

For this year’s elections, votes will be counted for each region and for the nation as a whole. Parties can either run to be political leaders of their regional state or for the nation. Ethnic parties have a bigger chance of winning in the regional elections.

The previous election in 1990 was not set up like this year’s. There were no votes for a region. Parties campaigned for votes of the whole nation. In 1990, the NLD finished first, SNLD ( the Shan Nationalaties League for Democracy) came second, the Arakan League for Democracy came in third, and the NUP took in fourth place.

    ( General Than Shwe ; Photo: AP)

Other Opposition Parties

There are many political parties in Burma. Here are the parties that I think have the most impact in Burma’s elections of 2010.

The NUP, ( the National Unity Party) also knownas the Burmese Socialist Program Party was formerly General Ne Win’s party. Although the NUP registered to run for the elections this year, it has not been approved by the EC. The NUP is currently trying to get participants to sign their petition.

The USDA,   also known as the Union Solidarity and Development Association,  is a   “ non governmental organization”, however I find it ironic that General Than Shwe was the founder of the organization. It is said that the USDA has plans to form one or two parties, but they have not formed one yet. In May of 2003, USDA was blamed for attacks against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

 The USDA is currently recruiting new members to support them.  According to electoral law, parties must have 1000 candidates to run in the elections. The NUP and the USDA are seeking members to support them. According to the Irrawaddy ( www.irrawaddy.org) , the USDA and the NUP are handing out ID cards to ethnic Rohingyas in  return for their votes.

    ( NLD ; Photo: AP)

I was talking to a Burmese native living in the United States about his thoughts on the upcoming elections and the major players in the elections. He does not want his name mentioned; he says, “ There are no major players in the elections of 2010 because the elections are a sham. The military made it a rule to get 1,000 candidates if a party wants to run nationally… which is unlikely to be plausible. Almost all of the major ethnic parties which competed in the 1990 elections, their leaders are imprisoned. The whole governing body- the parliament- everything- is under the control of the military. The general can declare a state of emergency at his command without the approval of assemblies or the prime minister.”

He stated that the imprisonment of ethnic leaders were a big hindrance to their parties. The two that came to my mind were the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and the NLD. The SNLD came in second in the 1990 elections; NLD came in first. SNLD’s leader is in jail. NLD’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 out of the 20 years. The SNLD will not be running in the 2010 elections; neither will NLD. My interviewee says, “ There are no good contenders because all their leaders are under house arrest. And none of the opposition parties are as strong as the NLD- the NLD has Daw Suu’s support.”

Another opposition group, which is considered more of an activist group is the 88 Generation Students Group. Note: The 88 Generation Students Group remains distinct from the “ 88 Generation Student Youth”  a.k.a. the Union of Myanmar Party, which was approved by the EC. The 88 Generation Students Group is not as active as it once was as their leaders have been imprisoned as well.

The Burmese native says, “ When leaders have gone to prison, the movements have calmed down.”

What do you think about this year’s elections? Do you think it’s a sham? Are you optimistic about Burma’s 2010 elections? Was it as confusing as I had said it was?  The NLD has been criticized for withdrawing; people say that this proves that the NLD is nothing without Aung San Suu Kyi…what do you think?

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