The Political Parties Registration Law, enacted by the military junta in Myanmar ahead of general elections to be held later this year, is aimed at keeping the popular leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi out of the electoral process. Only portions of the law have been released and they are outrageous. There cannot be a greater fraud on the electoral process, the sole aim of which is to keep the military junta in power. The international community, led by the United Nations, was hoping against hope that the military rulers would see some reason and make the forthcoming elections an inclusive process. In a slap in their face, the junta has barred anyone convicted of a crime from being a member of a political party. Further, parties that want to register under the new law must expel members who are “not in conformity with the qualification to be members of a party.” This means that Ms Suu Kyi cannot contest the elections, and her National League for Democracy (NLD) must expel her if it is to be eligible to participate in the process. The junta has also offered a carrot to the NLD by removing the seals on the regional offices of the party.
There are preliminary indications that the NLD may not be averse to jettisoning Ms Suu Kyi so that it can contest the election. Evidently, the thinking is that it can win the election and then try to undo the enormous damage the military rulers have done over the past two decades. But the NLD must remember that the junta annulled the 1990 elections after the party swept the polls. There is no indication that it is willing to loosen its iron grip on power. It has built into the new constitution reservation of 20 per cent of the seats in parliament not for women — but for the armed forces. It has adopted as a model the Indonesian constitution under the brutal and corrupt dictator Suharto. Painful experience has shown that the junta remains unmindful of world opinion. Neither the U.N. nor the regional cooperation forum, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), has been able to make the military rulers see reason and bring the country back to the path of democracy. Assuming that people voting in this fraudulent election somehow manage to teach the ruling generals some kind of a lesson, they are unlikely to relinquish power. China remains Myanmar's only friend and there is no indication that even this rising global power, with all its resources, can make the junta abandon the path of tyrannical, boorish isolation from the world.