08/30/2010, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Top members of Burmese junta resign ahead of elections, but power remains with military

Ahead of November 7 elections General Than Shwe reported to have cast off uniform, while retaining control of the country. But no official confirmation. The new president chosen by Parliament, where Constitution grants a quarter of the seats to military.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Leaders of the Burmese junta have resigned from the military ahead of the 7 November elections. This is what some dissident sources in Myanmar report, but it is unclear at present whether regime leader General Than Shwe is among those who have abandoned their uniforms.

Meanwhile today is the deadline set by the Electoral Commission for formalising candidacies for the vote. However the United States, European Union and human rights activists have criticized the run up to the vote, stressing that it is a mere charade while power remains in the hands of military leaders and there will be no greater openness to democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and opposition leader, remains under house arrest until the conclusion of the election and her party - National League for Democracy (NLD), winner of the previous election - in protest refused to register for the poll and has been outlawed.

The Constitution of Burma and the information contained in the military dictatorship’s "road map" for the vote determine that 25% of parliamentary seats are reserved for the military; every constitutional amendment requires a majority of more than 75%; anyone who has received criminal convictions, including political opponents are banned from voting and standing for election; religious orders including Buddhist monks, leaders of the "saffron revolution" in September 2007 that was bloodily suppressed by the junta, are not eligible to vote; the Election Commission is led by the military government.

Analysts explain that Than Shwe intends to become the president of the future civilian government of Myanmar, which will be formed in the aftermath of the farcical November 7 elections. Sources of the Irrawaddy and Mizzima - newspapers close to Burmese opposition - report that the chief has resigned from the army, but will head the interim government until elections. Foreign Ministry personnel have instead told Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) Than Shwe and his deputy have not yet resigned, but the step will be taken soon. The two leaders are to take on command posts in the newborn pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Under the Constitution approved in 2008 – right in the middle of the Nargis emergency - a veritable military coup, the president of Burma will be chosen by the new Parliament, where a quarter of the seats are reserved for the army.
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