Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi Suu Kyi denounces election laws that keep her out of race

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi denounces new election laws

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s military regime unveiled on Friday the last of its election laws, which detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has described as unjust and repressive.

The laws bar the Nobel Peace laureate from running for office or even voting in polls and greatly weaken her National League for Democracy. The date of the election has not been announced.

The fifth and last law, carried in state-owned newspapers Friday, governs elections to 14 regional parliaments. Details of the five laws have trickled out over the course of the week.

“Aung San Suu Kyi said she never expected such repressive laws would come out but said she’s not disappointed,” her party spokesman Nyan Win told reporters after meeting the 64-year-old democracy leader at her home Thursday.

“She said such challenges call for resolute responses and calls on the people and democratic forces to take unanimous action against such unfair laws,” he said.

Nyan Win said he was not yet in a position to say how the party would respond. Her party has yet to decide whether it will participate in the elections. Political parties have 60 days from Monday to register.

It will be the first poll since 1990, when Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory. The junta ignored the results of that vote and has kept Suu Kyi jailed or under detention for 14 of the past 20 years.

This year’s elections are part of the junta’s “roadmap to democracy,” which critics deride as a sham designed to cement the military’s power. A military-backed constitution was approved by a national referendum last May, but the opposition charges that the vote was unfair.

An election law announced Wednesday prohibits anyone convicted of a crime from being a member of a political party, making Suu Kyi ineligible to become a candidate in the elections — or even a member of the party she co-founded and heads.

In August, Suu Kyi was convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest by briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside residence, and was sentenced to 18 more months of detention.

Election laws announced Thursday take away her right to vote, saying those convicted of crimes are barred from the polls. Thursday’s two laws also formally invalidated the 1990 election results, saying the 1989 election law under which those polls were held was repealed by the new legislation.

“They have been slowly trying to decimate the party and now they are doing it with utmost force. But the NLD will never collapse,” said the party’s deputy chairman, Tin Oo.

However, authorities moved Wednesday to reopen several NLD offices in Yangon by removing red wax that had been sealed over their locks since 2003 to restrict party activities, Nyan Win said earlier.

The United States and human rights groups have warned that the junta is running out of chances to make the elections appear credible. Clauses in the constitution already ensure that the military will retain a controlling say in government and bar Suu Kyi from holding office.

“This is a step in the wrong direction,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington. “The political party registration law makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the upcoming elections will be devoid of credibility.”

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