New Burma law could encourage Suu Kyi to reregister party

Burma's president has signed a revised law on political parties in an apparent attempt to encourage Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to accept the political system and reregister as a party.

Burma's president has signed a revised law on political parties in an apparent attempt to encourage Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to accept the political system and reregister as a party.

President Thein Sein signed the amendments to the Political Party Registration Law as senior US diplomats were ending a visit to encourage his government to push forward with democratic reforms. A UN envoy has also been visiting.

If the National League for Democracy reregisters as a legal party, it could join upcoming but still unscheduled by-elections that would be the first electoral test of its popularity in more than two decades.

Bringing Ms Suu Kyi's party back into the fold would also give the government greater legitimacy at home and abroad.

The group was delisted as a political party last year after it refused to register for November 2010 elections, saying they were being held under undemocratic conditions.

The amendments of the party law signed by Thein Sein alter three areas of the law to accommodate Ms Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

The law, originally enacted in March last year by the previous military junta, prohibited anyone who has been convicted of a crime from being a member of a political party.

Ms Suu Kyi had been convicted on a trumped-up charge, and would have had to leave the party she helped found. The clause has now been dropped, clearing the way for former political prisoners to engage in politics.

Another article was amended to say that registered parties shall "respect and abide" by the constitution rather than "safeguard" it. The change was evidently made to accommodate criticisms of the charter by Ms Suu Kyi's group without making them illegal.

The third amendment says that any party that registers after the general election must run candidates in at least three constituencies in by-elections to remain legally registered.

The original law said a party had to stand at least three candidates in the general election, which would have been an impediment to Ms Suu Kyi's party, since it boycotted the 2010 polls.

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