Burma to hold first election in 20 years

BURMA’S state TV has announced that the country’s first election in two decades will be held on November 7.

The long-awaited announcement on state TV and radio marked the first time the junta gave a date for the polls, which will be the first since 1990.

Critics called the election a sham designed to cement military rule.

The military has ruled Burma for nearly 50 years.

“Multiparty general elections for the country’s parliament will be held on Sunday, November 7,” said the brief announcement from the Election Commission, which also called on political parties to submit their candidate lists between August 16 and August 30.

Ahead of the polls, the ruling military junta passed numerous laws and rules criticised by detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the international community as undemocratic and unfair.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is boycotting the polls. It was disbanded in May because it refused to register.

The new laws effectively bar Suu Kyi and other political prisoners – estimated at more than 2,000 – from taking part in the elections.

Tight rules for campaigning bar parties from chanting, marching or saying anything at rallies that could tarnish the country’s image.

Renegade members of Suu Kyi’s disbanded party formed a new group, the National Democratic Force, to carry the party’s mantle in the vote.

Suu Kyi expressed dissatisfaction through her lawyer with the formation of the new breakaway party.

Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide majority in the 1990 election, the result of which was not honoured by the junta.

A spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy said the date was too soon to allow sufficient time for party campaigning.

“Without freedom of media or expression, the elections cannot be either free or fair,” said the spokesman, Nyan Win.

The elections are the final step in the junta’s so-called “roadmap to democracy,” a seven-step programme for shifting from military rule.

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