Undemocratic election laws makes undemocratic elections, part 2

More announcements today reveal the undemocratic nature of the new election laws in Burma, essentially guaranteeing that the outcome of this year’s elections will be unfair and not free.

The party registration law has backed the National League for Democracy (NLD) into a corner. Given 60 days to decide whether to register for the elections, the NLD must choose to either register and validate the 2008 Constitution, which they have challenged in the past, or refuse to register and cease to exist as a legal organization. If the NLD decides to run, they would have to expel their leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, from the organization, as the election law forbids political parties from having a prisoner as a party member. Even before this new law, the 2008 constitution barred Aung San Suu Kyi from running, as it forbids anyone from holding the offices of President or Vice President whose spouse or children are citizens of a foreign country. Aung San Suu Kyi was married to a British citizen, Michael Aris, and her two sons are British citizens. Any party which wishes to take part in the 2010 elections must register with the military-appointed electoral commission, which can reject any candidate and ensures that all parties follow the new election “rules.”

Another party, the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), has already announced that it will boycott the election and refuse to register unless the 2008 Constitution is reviewed and amended. The ALD’s main complaint against the Constitution is that it neglects the rights of ethnic nationalities, as well as stipulating a large military presence in the Parliament and Presidency. The Constitution will also be impossible to amend without the wishes of the Commander-in-Chief, as an amendment requires at least two thirds of the parliament to vote yes, while 25 percent of the seats are reserved for military members.

Domestic and international critics argue that the 2008 Constitution is legitimizing the military’s roles in politics by its mandated military presence in the parliament and positions such as President and ministers of Defense, Home, Security and Border Areas. On Wednesday, March 10, the Obama administration expressed concerns about the credibility of the elections, stating that they hoped the Burmese military would first engage in “substantive dialogue with the democratic opposition or ethnic minority leaders.” For two months in a row now, the UN Security Council has left Burma out of the footnotes of its monthly agenda, suggesting that none of the 15 members want to discuss the situation in Burma.

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