The NLD, which is the main opposition party, will not participate in parliamentary elections organised by the military junta for this year. Its central executive committee decided in a unanimous vote on Monday to stay away from the poll. However, if the party fails to register by 6 May, it will no longer be deemed a lawful organisation.
In the last elections held in 1990, the party had won by a landslide (82 per cent of the vote), but it was never able to take power because the military government refused to accept the result.
Win Tin (pictured), who spent 19 of his 80 years behind bars for his role in the struggle for democracy, is strongly opposed to registering the party. NLD leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is also against it.
“We are working to abolish and dismantle the entire military dictatorship,” he said. For this reason, he expects them to “come down harshly against us,” he said.
“We cannot expel Aung San Suu Kyi” just to run in these elections, he explained. Likewise, “We do not accept the regime's unilaterally drafted constitution,” which is “designed to legalise permanent military dictatorship.”
The NLD’s decision has not met with unanimous approval at home or among junta opponents abroad.
Some are in favour, like Burmese poet Ko Lay who was “pleased with this decision,” believing that “this election will not take place”, and the Indian Parliamentarians Forum for Democracy in Burma (IPFDB), which called the NLD’s decision a bold step against the military junta.
Others are against it. The New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research said the NLD is making a mistake by staying out of the political process, since the elections could provide it with a window of opportunity.
In the meantime, Japan’s foreign minister Katsuya Okada said that Tokyo would freeze aid to Burma unless the junta released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allowed her to participate in elections this year.