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NEWS UPDATES 29 March 2010

Myanmar opposition likely to vote ‘no’ to junta ballot

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The party of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was meeting Monday to decide whether to participate in the first election in military-ruled Myanmar in two decades, the Associated Press quoted the party spokesman as saying.

A senior party member called it "a life-or-death" decision.

More than 100 senior members of the National League for Democracy gathered at its Yangon headquarters for the decision expected Monday or shortly thereafter, spokesman Nyan Win said.

Interviews with a number of the 115 delegates indicated that the party would chose not to register and thus be forced to dissolve.

"This meeting is a life-or-death issue. If we don't register, we will not have a party and we will be without legs and limbs," said Win Tin, a veteran party member and one of Myanmar's longest serving political prisoners.

Security was heightened, with plainclothes police and pro-government security guards stationed around the party's compound.

Under new election laws, political parties have until the first week of May to register for the balloting, the date of which has yet to be announced. One of the new laws requires parties to register for the election or cease to exist.

Last week, Suu Kyi was quoted by her lawyer as saying she opposed registering her party because the ruling junta's restrictions on the vote were "unjust." But she stressed she will let the party decide for itself.

The NLD won the last election held in Myanmar in 1990 by a landslide but was barred by the military from taking power.

The credibility of the upcoming vote has already been questioned and would be more so if the country's principal opposition party doesn't participate.

"We are against party registration. We strongly support (Suu Kyi's) decision and we cannot register the party under the unjust political party registration law that requires convicted party members to be expelled," said May Win Myint, chairman of NLD women's organisation who was elected in the 1990 balloting.

Suu Kyi is under house arrest and the new election laws effectively bar her from running and voting. One law also instructs political parties to expel members convicted of crimes or face de-registration.

Although the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been under detention for 14 of the last 20 years, she is still general-secretary of the party and its most dominant figure.

The election is part of the junta's long-announced "roadmap to democracy," which critics deride as a sham designed to cement the power of the military, which has ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, since 1962.


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