Myanmar junta sets out tough new rules for political parties

(FILE) Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing (front 3L) arrives to attend a ceremony on the eve of the Lunar New Year, in Yangon on January 21, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar’s junta on Friday gave political parties two months to re-register under a strict new electoral law written by the military, the latest sign it is planning fresh polls this year.

The previous elections in November 2020 were won resoundingly by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy but the military staged its coup after making unsubstantiated allegations of massive voter fraud.

The junta-imposed state of emergency is due to expire at the end of January, after which the constitution states authorities must set in motion plans to hold fresh elections — although no date has yet been given.

Existing parties and would-be parties have 60 days to register with the junta-backed election commission, according to the new rules published in the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar on Friday.

The new laws for political parties were approved by the junta on Thursday.

Any national party must promise “that at least 100,000 party members will be mobilised” within 90 days of registration being granted, and must open offices in at least half of the country’s townships within 180 days.

Those unable to do so will “lose their status” as a political party.

The rules did not give details on how those numbers would be verified across the crisis-racked country, where the military is struggling to crush resistance to its coup and rights groups accuse it of massive intimidation.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing insisted earlier this month the military would hold “free and fair” multi-party elections, days after a court increased democracy figurehead Suu Kyi’s jail term to 33 years.

The United States has said any elections under the junta would be a “sham”. Moscow, a major ally and arms supplier, has said it backs the plan for polls.

A handful of smaller, regional parties have indicated they may run, while the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party has held events across the country in recent weeks.

Suu Kyi’s NLD has been decimated in the aftermath of the coup, with several top leaders jailed for lengthy terms and many others in exile or in hiding.

A former NLD lawmaker was executed by the junta last year for “terrorism”, sparking massive international condemnation.

The junta-appointed election commission is in discussions with political parties about proportional representation, the junta chief said this month.

Analysts say the junta may scrap the first-past-the-post system that saw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy win sweeping majorities in 2020 and 2015.

More than 2,800 people have been killed and over 17,000 arrested since the coup almost two years ago, according to a monitoring group in Myanmar.



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