Suu Kyi’s party ordered dissolved in military-ruled Myanmar

The political party led by Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to face automatic dissolution by the military-appointed election commission because it declined to register for a planned general election it denounced as a sham

Updated - March 28, 2023 10:01 pm IST

Published - March 28, 2023 06:18 pm IST - BANGKOK

File photo of a Myanmar protester using a flag with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally.

File photo of a Myanmar protester using a flag with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The political party led by Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ordered dissolved by the military-appointed election commission on Tuesday because it failed to register for a planned general election, state television MRTV reported. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which has denounced the promised polls as a sham, was one of 40 parties that failed to meet the Tuesday deadline for registration, MRTV said.

Critics say the still-unscheduled polls will be neither free nor fair in a country ruled by the military that has shut free media and arrested most of the leaders of Suu Kyi’s party. The NLD won a landslide victory in the November 2020 election, only to have the army block all elected lawmakers from taking their seats in Parliament and seize power for itself, detaining top members of Suu Kyi’s government and party.

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“We absolutely do not accept that an election will be held at a time when many political leaders and political activists have been arrested and the people are being tortured by the military,” Bo Bo Oo, one of the elected lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s party, said Tuesday.

Suu Kyi, 77, is serving prison sentences totaling 33 years after being convicted in a series of politically tainted prosecutions brought by the military. Her supporters say the charges were contrived to prevent her from participating in politics.

The army said it staged its 2021 takeover because of massive poll fraud, though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities. Some critics of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the takeover and is now Myanmar’s top leader, believe he acted because the vote thwarted his own political ambitions.

The new polls had been expected by the end of July, according to the army’s own plans. But in February, the military announced a six-month extension of its state of emergency, delaying the possible legal date for holding an election. It said security could not be assured. The military does not control large swaths of the country, where it faces widespread armed resistance to its rule.

“Amid the state oppression following the 2021 coup, no election can be credible, especially when much of the population sees a vote as a cynical attempt to supplant the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in 2020,” said a report issued Tuesday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank.

“The polls will almost certainly intensify the post-coup conflict, as the regime seeks to force them through and resistance groups seek to disrupt them.”

The military government enacted a new political party registration law in January that makes it difficult for opposition groups to mount a serious challenge to the army’s favored candidates. It sets conditions such as minimum levels of membership and candidates and offices that any party without the backing of the army and its cronies would find hard to meet, especially in the repressive political atmosphere.

The new law declared that existing political parties had to re-apply for registration with the election commission within 60 days — March 28 — and those that fail will be “automatically invalidated” and considered dissolved. It also says parties have to entrust their properties to the government if they are dissolved by their own choice or if their registrations are canceled under the law.

The National League for Democracy rejected the law after it was announced, saying that the military-planned polls are illegal and amount to a “sham election.” It declared that any individuals and entities cooperating in the polls with the military will be deemed accomplices in committing high treason.

Bo Bo Oo said a March 21 meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee reaffirmed the decision not to register.

There were more than 90 registered parties in the 2020 general election.

MRTV said 63 political parties applied to the election commission for registration this year. Twelve applied to contest at the national level and 51 at regional or state levels. The commission must still approve their applications.

The National League for Democracy was founded in 1988 in the wake of a failed uprising against military rule. It won a 1990 general election that was invalidated by the country’s military rulers. It was technically banned after it boycotted a 2010 election held under military auspices because it felt it was not free or fair, but was allowed to register when it agreed to run in 2011. It took power after a landslide victory in the 2015 general election.

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