03/29/2023, 14.26
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Myanmar election: Aung San Suu Kyi's party dissolved, violence expected to increase

Yesterday’s report by the International Crisis Group suggests that Myanmar’s ruling junta wants to hold national elections at any cost to cancel out the pre-coup victory of the National League of Democracy in the November 2020 election. However, it faces a strong and determined grassroots opposition.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar’s ruling military junta, which took power in a coup in February 2021, yesterday announced the dissolution of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of former leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to experts, this was done to prevent the return of a civilian government at the next elections, but which will in all likelihood increase violence due to strong popular opposition.

Under a new law passed in January by the junta, all of the country’s existing parties have two months to re-register in order to participate in the elections (which observers take for granted will not be free and fair).

The National League for Democracy, which does not consider the current government legitimate, refused to do so and was therefore dissolved along with 40 other political parties. But steps taken to prevent a return to democracy in Myanmar do not end there.

According to the legislation approved in January, parties that want to take part in the elections must register at least 100,000 members within 90 days (up from a thousand), and deposit 100 million kyat (around US$ 35,000) in their bank account, a 100-fold increase over what was required before.

Lastly, the law bans candidates linked to individuals and organisations deemed terrorists, but does not define the latter so that any political enemies can be easily excluded.

The junta has branded as terrorist the People's Defence Forces (PDF), the armed wing of the exiled National Unity Government (NUG), composed mostly of former MPs from the NLD.

According to a report released yesterday by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Belgium-based global crisis think-tank, the goal of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-chief of the Defence Services (Myanmar’s Armed Forces), is to "supplant the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi” in the last democratic elections in November 2020.

Arrested during the coup, the democratic icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner is serving a 33-year sentence after what international observers call a show trial, in order to keep her away from politics.

After the junta extended the state of emergency beyond the constitutionally allowed 24 months, elections could be held next November or in January 2024.

For the ICG, " The regime’s emphasis on the elections is not merely rhetorical but reflects a real desire to shift from emergency rule to a more enduring form of military-directed political regime.”

To this end, the ruling junta is using the same constitution that was drafted in 2008 under a previous military regime, which gives the military a “national political leadership role”.

In fact, the think-tank's report notes that the military saw that under the NLD government its role was shrinking, and for this reason, staged its coup sparking the violence that followed.

If held, the next elections could be the most violent Myanmar has ever witnessed, experts warn. Indeed, “The majority of the population, seeing the polls as a cynical attempt by the military to perpetuate its political control, has no interest in participating,” reads the ICG report.

For decades, the armed wings of the country’s ethnic minority organisations, founded after the country's independence in 1948, have fought the central government.

At present, they are allied with the People’s Defence Forces as part of the anti-junta resistance. Since the coup, the latter has attacked teams collecting civil data for voter lists, killing more than a dozen individuals.

For its part, the military regime seems determined to prevent any election boycott, but to allow broad participation, it must control the territories held by the resistance and this will mean more fighting with ethnic armed groups and violence against civilians.

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See also
Bago, parcel bomb kills a parliamentarian, three civil disobedience policemen and another man
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Fresh charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, she now faces 15 years in prison
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