Pro-democracy leader banned from contesting elections

A new election law issued by Burma’s ruling military bars pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from joining a political party and thus from running in upcoming elections, state-run newspapers said today.

A new election law issued by Burma’s ruling military bars pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from joining a political party and thus from running in upcoming elections, state-run newspapers said today.

The Political Parties Registration Law, published in official newspapers, excludes anyone convicted by a court of law from party membership and may force Ms Suu Kyi’s expulsion from her National League for Democracy.

The leader of an activist group described the law as a slap in the face for the international community, which is calling for free and fair elections in the Southeast Asian nation.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention, was convicted last August of violating the terms of her house arrest by briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside residence.

She was sentenced to a new term of house arrest that is to end this November.

The sentence was seen as a way to keep Ms Suu Kyi locked up during the election campaign. Last month, the Supreme Court dismissed her latest appeal for freedom.

The election law says that existing political parties have 60 days from Monday, when the law was promulgated, to register with an Election Committee whose members are to be appointed by the junta. The government currently recognises 10 parties.

Parties are also instructed to expel members who are “not in conformity with the qualification to be members of a party”, a clause that could force Ms Suu Kyi’s expulsion. Parties that don’t register automatically cease to exist, the law says.

The law also bars members of religious orders and civil servants from joining political parties.

The date of the elections has not been announced, and Ms Suu Kyi’s party has not said whether it will contest the balloting.

The regime enacted five election-related laws on Monday, two of which have now been made public. Three more are to be unveiled in coming days.

The government announced in 2008 that elections will take place sometime in 2010. The last elections in 1990 were won overwhelmingly by Ms Suu Kyi’s party, but the military refused to hand over power.

Her party says the new constitution of 2008 is unfair and gives the military controlling say in government.

Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyer and a senior party member, Nyan Win, said the new law also bars people who have lodged an appeal against a conviction, which he said “clearly refers” to Ms Suu Kyi. He declined to comment further, saying party members need to discuss the legislation first.

It was widely assumed that Ms Suu Kyi would be shut out since a provision in the constitution bars anyone with foreign ties from taking part in elections.

Ms Suu Kyi’s now-deceased husband was British, her two sons have British citizenship, and she has been described by the junta as enjoying special links with Britain.

Aung Din, who heads the US-based lobby group US Campaign for Burma, noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said he had urged Burma to release laws governing the elections as soon as possible.

“This is the regime’s response to Ban Ki-moon and the international community, who have been expecting that the regime would hold the election inclusive, free and fair,” Aung Din said.

“I hope Ban Ki-moon stands strong and calls for the international community to not recognise this sham election,” Aung Din said.

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