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NEWS UPDATES 11 March 2010

Myanmar junta officially invalidates 1990 election results

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Myanmar’s ruling junta has used new election laws to officially annul the result of polls in 1990 that were won by Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party, Bangkok Post reported, quoting state media.

"The result of the multi-party democracy elections, held under a deleted law, is automatically abolished as it is not in accordance with the constitution," said a clause in one of the laws printed in state newspapers.

The junta enacted the long-awaited new electoral laws on Monday and details have emerged during the week.

The most controversial of them says that the NLD must expel Suu Kyi from its ranks or be dissolved on the grounds that a person serving a prison term cannot be a party member.

In a related report, the Associated Press said the decision by Myanmar's military junta to bar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from upcoming elections drew sharp criticism from around the world, with one of the country's Southeast Asian neighbors Thursday calling it "a complete farce."

A new election law announced Wednesday prohibits anyone convicted of a crime - as Suu Kyi was in August - from being a member of a political party. That makes the detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate ineligible to become a candidate in elections scheduled for some time later this year.

Another law published Thursday in state-owned newspapers formally invalidated the country's last elections, held 20 years ago. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in those polls, but the junta ignored the results and has kept Suu Kyi jailed or under house arrest for 14 years since then.

"Unless they release Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her and her party to participate in elections, it's a complete farce and therefore contrary to their roadmap to democracy," Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo told The Associated Press.

The Philippines is a partner with Myanmar in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose 10 members rarely voice criticism of each other.

The United States and Britain expressed disappointment and regret at the junta's move. Analysts called it a clear slap in the face for the international community, which has repeatedly said the elections would not be legitimate if Suu Kyi, 64, is barred from running.

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.

The junta enacted five laws Monday that set out the rules for the elections, campaigning and conditions under which parties may participate. One has not yet been made public. The first stipulates that the junta will appoint a five-member Election Commission, which has final say over the poll's results.

Newspapers Thursday said the 1989 law under which the 1990 elections were held was repealed by the new legislation. They also said a newly created 440-member House of Representatives will have 330 elected civilians and 110 military representatives. A 224-member House of Nationalities will have 168 elected candidates and 56 nominated by the military chief.

Anyone disrupting the voting can be imprisoned for a year, the laws say.

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

"Maybe they want to show some flexibility," said Nyan Win, noting that the move seemed tied to another provision of the election laws that says existing political parties have 60 days from Monday to register. The government currently recognizes 10 parties.

US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Wednesday the laws were disappointing. Suu Kyi should be released from house arrest so she can "play an active role in the political life of the country going forward," Campbell said during a trip to Malaysia.

The date of the elections has not been announced, and Suu Kyi's party has not said whether it will take part.

"We're going to need to study the election laws carefully once they've all been released," British Ambassador Andrew Heyn said. "But it's regrettable and very disappointing that the laws are not based on a dialogue with a range of political opinion."


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