Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), said that she does not support the NLD registering under the junta’s election laws for the upcoming 2010 elections, but that she would leave the final decision up to her party. After meeting with Suu Kyi on Tuesday, her lawyer, Nyan Win, said Suu Kyi wanted NLD “party members to know that the party would have no dignity if it registers and participates in the election.”
Burma’s junta recently published election rules for the 2010 elections. The party registration law forbids prisoners from being members of any political party, meaning that the NLD will have to expel Aung San Suu Kyi from their party if they decide to register for the election. The international community has called these elections a sham, and pro-democracy activists say the elections are worthless if leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi are barred from running. The party registration law gave the NLD 60 days to decide whether to register. If the party fails to register, it will cease to exist as a legal entity in Burma.
Last week, the NLD decided that the final decision about registration will be left up to Suu Kyi and party chairman Aung Schwe. Previously, the NLD planned on conducting a secret ballot to decide. On Monday, the NLD requested the regime’s permission to allow a meeting between Suu Kyi and party committee leaders. Similar requests have been denied.
Within the NLD, there is disagreement about the best course of action. Party officials Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe disagree – Win Tin thinks the party should not register for the election, while Khin Maung Swe says it should. Exiled opposition members and influential members within Burma are also pressuring the NLD not to register, saying the elections cannot be democratic unless Aung San Suu Kyi is allowed to participate. However, pro-registration members like Khin Maung Swe say that the NLD can become a viable force in the parliament as a result of the election, even if they do not win a landslide victory.
Despite the confusion among the party and in the public about what the NLD should do, the answer is clear. The 2010 elections simply will not be democratic without the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the NLD’s participation in such elections will legitimize the junta’s inevitable victory. Burma’s repressive regime will not allow the NLD to win another election, and so the party should not participate in any elections until they are completely free and fair. We must support Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to boycott these unjust elections and continue calling upon the junta to allow legitimate elections to take place.