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Registered Parties Should Carefully Assess Election Strategy


Thursday, August 12, 2010

By the first week of August, 40 political parties had registered for the upcoming Burmese elections and others were still waiting for their applications to be approved.

One of the most recent parties to be registered was a Kachin political party called the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS), while three other Kachin political parties are still waiting to hear if their applications are successful.

It is well known that the UDPKS leaders are former members of Kachin State Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), who were asked by their USDA superiors to form a political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in their State.

The regime is doubtless also busy creating other regional and ethnic based political parties of the USDP. The regime is dividing not only political parties but also communities and societies into pieces in order to claim that the military is the only institution which the country needs for leadership.

Having excluded the main stream pro-democracy forces such as the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) from the electoral process, the regime seems intent on generating confusion with the registration of more than a dozen national-level parties. Many of them are actually pro-regime parties and apart from the USDP and National Unity Party (NUP) are only national in name, without any countrywide membership base.

While most of those national level parties are struggling with the imposed limitations of the electoral laws and directives of the regime in order to function properly, the USDP and the NUP are apparently beginning their election campaigning.

They are also campaigning hard with a surprising accusation from the NUP that the USDP is abusing State power and facilities and claiming that the USDP is using its unique position within the ruling military regime to commandeer planes, helicopters and budgets for its election campaign.

Commenting on the current pre-election environment for political parties, Chit Hlaing, former foreign minister of the Burma Socialist Programme Party government and a leading member of the NUP, also challenged the USDP, saying “one has to run on the plain and another has to run up the mountain”. He proposed that there should be a “level playground.”

Chit Hlaing said his party would not need to be afraid of anyone if there were correct voting procedures.

In fact, the NUP and USDP are blood brothers, both born of military dictators. And both are the biggest political parties in the so-called ”only game in town.”

No other registered political party can compete with the NUP and USDP in terms of members, district, township and village level party branches, party funds, and the favor received by various levels of state authority.

The NUP is a descendant of the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) which in different forms ruled the country for 26 years. The BSPP was forced to disband by the nation-wide pro-democracy uprising of 1988, when it formed a proxy, the NUP, to compete with the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 1990 election.

The NUP lost miserably to the NLD. While the NUP accuses the USDP of corruption, it is at the same time trying to clear its own name, claiming that it has returned all funds and property to the State, although there is no proof of this.

The more recently formed USDP is blatantly intertwined with the military regime, which shamelessly created the party from the USDA, the mass civil association masquerading as an independent body but headed by Snr-Gen Than Shwe. USDP members are notorious for harassing and crushing pro-democracy activists.

The USDA organized mass meetings across the country, calling for support for the regime’s national convention and denouncing Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD.

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