BANGKOK (AP) – Myanmar’s military-controlled government has enacted a new law on registration of political parties that will make it difficult for opposition groups to mount a serious challenge to army-backed candidates in a general election set to take place later this year.
The new electoral law, published on Friday in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper, sets minimum funding and membership levels for parties participating in the polls. It also bans participation by parties or candidates deemed unlawful or linked to organisations declared by the military government to be terrorist groups.
The army seized power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, arresting her and top members of her governing National League for Democracy party, which had won a landslide victory for a second term in a November 2020 general election.
The security forces suppressed widespread opposition to the military takeover with lethal force, killing almost 2,900 civilians and arresting thousands more people who engaged in nonviolent protests.
The savage crackdown triggered armed resistance in much of the country. The military government deemed major organisations opposed to army rule to be “terrorist” groups, and communication with them was declared illegal.
The new law gives parties two months to re-register with the Union Election Commission and says those that do not will be “automatically invalidated” and considered dissolved.
Parties that compete nationwide will need to attain a membership of least 100,000 within three months after being registered, which is 100 times higher than the minimum level set in the law used in the 2020 election.
Parties also need to open offices in at least half of the country’s 330 townships within six months and must be able to contest in at least half of all constituencies, the law says.
Critics have already said the military-planned elections will be neither free nor fair because there is no free media and most of the leaders of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party have been arrested.
Suu Kyi, 77, is serving prison sentences totalling 33 years after being convicted in a series of politically tainted prosecutions brought by the military.
The National League for Democracy declared last November that it will not accept or recognise the military-planned election, which it described as “fake”.
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