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Asia

Myanmar election rules ban shouting and marching

The junta in Myanmar, also known as Burma, recently announced election rules that forbid political parties from chanting or marching while seeking support and votes for the upcoming polls.

Some 30 million Burmese are eligible to cast their vote

Some 30 million Burmese are eligible to cast their vote

The upcoming polls in Myanmar are the first to be held in 20 years. About 30 million people are eligible to cast their ballot but the stringent directives regarding election campaigning have once again raised concern about the fairness of the vote, which critics have already denounced as a sham.

According to the new rules, political parties are not allowed to chant slogans or say anything during rallies that could affect the image of the military-run country. They are not even allowed to wave party flags or march.

"All these election commission's rules and regulations are trying to limit the activities, especially campaigning of the political parties which planning to contest the elections," said Soe Aung from the Forum for Democracy in Burma, a dissident group based in Thailand.

Myanmar has been run by a military regime for decades

Myanmar has been run by a military regime for decades

"As far as I understand, many political parties have complained about it. And the junta’s civilian political party that they call the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has the upper hand in the activities of campaigning. That's why many ethnic and other political parties are complaining that it is very difficult to campaign against the USDP."

The situation in 1990 polls was different

The guidelines also say that parties should have at least 1,000 members to contest in the nationwide polls. Permission for any meetings that do not take place at party headquarters needs to be obtained at least one week in advance.

The authorities also need to be told in advance who will attend the meeting, who the main speakers will be and the exact time of speeches.

"There were not many restrictions in the 1990 polls as now," said Soe Aung. "They didn’t have many regulations in terms of forming political parties and the number of political parties. In 1990 more than 100 parties were allowed to register."

So far, 42 groups have registered to form political parties, according to the official figures but only 33 have been approved by the Election Commission.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

National Democratic Force's chances

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide in the 1990 polls, but the junta never recognized the results.

Earlier this year, the junta enacted laws that effectively barred Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 detained political prisoners from taking part in the polls.

The NLD decided to boycott the elections and did not register by the May 6 deadline. The party has now been disbanded.

Some former members have since formed a new party called the National Democratic Force (NDF), which is contesting in the polls.

However, many think their chances are slim. "In terms of popularity I don't think they will gain as much as the NLD did in the 1990 elections," said Soe Aung.

"In fact in my opinion they might not have the support of the people as they would like to, because the people may have despise that they are doing this against the main NLD party central committee's decision."

Soe Aung thinks that all in all the upcoming polls are aimed at legitimizing the rule of the junta in the name of the civilian administration. He and other critics have urged the international community to not acknowledge the results.

Author: Disha Uppal
Editor: Anne Thomas

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