Burma’s military junta announced new elections laws today, although it still has not set a date for this year’s general election. The five laws enacted were the election commission law, the political parties registration law, the people’s parliament election commission law, the national parliament commission election law, and the state or division parliament commission law.
The new party registration law gives the National League of Democracy 60 days to accept the law in order to run in the 2010 elections. If the NLD fails to register, it will cease to exist as a legal political entity. Additionally, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be banned from contesting if she is not released prior to the elections, as the new law states that people serving jail term are not eligible to found a political party. The new election commission law sets up a national commission to oversee the elections and gives the commission power to veto any candidates. The commission can also determine whether the election should take place in places in Burma which are affected by “natural catastrophe or security reasons.”
This may mean that the regime will not hold elections in areas controlled by armed ethnic organization which have refused to join the Border Guard Force (BGF). The latest deadline for the BGF was passed on February 28, 2010. Those who refused to join the BGF are armed organizations such as the Kachin Independence Organization (KIA) and United Wa State Army (UWSA). On Friday, Mach 5, the junta has begun to consider outlawing the UWSA, the country’s largest ethnic armed group, upon failing to join the BGF as ordered. Needless to say, tensions between the Burmese junta and ethnic groups have increased since the BGF order expired. In recent days, it has been reported that the Burmese military deployed a force of 70,000 troops to Shan State, which is home to UWSA.
The controversial constitution that the upcoming elections are based on was ratified in 2008, right after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country. The new constitution guarantees the military a permanent role in central politics and a quarter of parliamentary seats as well as veto power over any constitutional amendments. Senior General Than Shwe has promised these elections to be part of his “roadmap to disciplined democracy,” but critics contend that the elections will be a sham unless the junta frees the 2,200 political prisoners currently serving jail terms and allows the imprisoned Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to contend in the election.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo told the Irrawaddy that the election’s legitimacy depends on the NLD’s and other opposition groups’ participation as well as national reconciliation between ethnic groups. He also said that if the election’s outcome is not recognized as legitimate by Burma’s neighboring countries, then the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will have a hard time recognizing it.