Sunday, May 16, 2010

Burma: Final Condemnation for Upcoming Elections as NLD Ceases to Exist as Political Party

10 May 2010

Burma: Final Condemnation for Upcoming Elections
as NLD Ceases to Exist as Political Party

On 7 May 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, winners of the last elections in 1990, ceased to exist as a legal political party in accordance with the military regime’s implementation of new election laws. Many NLD offices have closed down, signboards have been removed and NLD members face impending arrest and abuse.

The NLD decided not to contest upcoming elections in Burma, due to be held sometime towards the end of 2010, because of the absence of a free and fair environment. NLD leader Tin Oo told Irrawaddy: “We can't accept the 2008 constitution and operate under its unjust provisions. If we do, we will just be an organization that listens to what authorities say and agrees with them. Look at who has registered for the election. Most of them are groups with friendly relationships with the regime.” The military regime placed so many restrictions upon the NLD that it had little option but to refuse to register.

NLD members have cleared out the head office and have outlined their plans to do “social work with a political angle.” Some members have also formed a new party called the ‘National Democratic Force’ and registered with the military in order to maintain an overview of the process from the inside.

Local sources have already reported that NLD members are being arrested and abused in Arakan and Mon states.

Despite there still not being a date for the elections, the military-backed ‘Union Solidarity and Development Party’ has now begun campaigning across the country, including on all state-owned channels.

Political parties are important organs for representing aggregated preferences and opinions, and their unobstructed participation is a fundamental part of free and fair elections. A free media, and respect for freedom of expression and access to information are also vital to free and fair elections. A free and professional media informs the electorate, communicates policies, frames election issues, holds parties accountable, and creates a diverse and pluralistic election where all parties have equal opportunities to express their views.

By in effect denying the NLD the chance to take part in the election, the military regime is violating the people’s right to access a range of viewpoints and express themselves freely through the electoral process. Furthermore, the absence of free and fair elections, including specific protections for a free media, is likely to further increase political and economic instability in Burma.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the international community, particularly China, India, and the ASEAN states, to recognise that the withdrawal of the NLD means that the forthcoming elections are illegitimate. ARTICLE 19 urges governments to use all means at their disposal to ensure that the electoral laws be amended so as to allow for political equality and popular control.


NOTES TO EDITORS:

• Read ARTICLE 19’s Joint Statement on the Media and Elections at: www.article19.org/pdfs/press/joint-statement-on-the-media-and-elections.pdf
• For more information please contact: Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org

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