Monday, 14 July 2008

Junta plans to pull strings to win elections

Htet Win
14 July 2008

Rangoon: There are several options the military regime can resort to before and the 2010 multi-party democracy elections, apart from its self-acclaimed constitutional rights, to cling to power.

The first thing several top-ranking generals – especially the present leader Senior General Than Shwe – are turning themselves into civilians to set up a military-backed political party, through which they will run or be selected by the Commander-in-Chief as representatives for their respective constituencies in the election in 2010.

That would be the way the generals prefer most to make sure that they win the forthcoming election, said a senior member of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) of Thingangyun township in Rangoon. The USDA is a proxy of the military regime to politically maneuver in Burma.

He added that the military regime had planned to make an announcement next month that all political parties are to register for contesting the election.

Secondly, the top-ranking generals would transform the USDA to a political party which will support the military generals. That party would be much like the National Unity Party in the 1990 election, the results of which the military regime ignored and has been recently declared no longer valid.

The USDA member, who does not wish to be identified, said the military generals would continue defying the desire of the populace and the international community as well, adding that the generals cared about their own plan at their own pace.

"The military regime also has a well-rounded plan to restrict and harass any potential political party or political figures who are really seeking a free and fair election to usher in democracy in Myanmar (Burma)," he said.

In the third option, the regime would resort to relying on the young generation with political segments such as National League for Democracy (Wuntharnu) and local media owners who are viewing themselves as potential political representatives. They are now in their forties, having close business ties but covertly with high-ranking military authorities for commercial interests.

"Among them are also young businessmen who have built their personal ties with the military authority for business," the USDA member said.

Both the general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi and vice president of NLD U Tin Oo are currently under house arrest. NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 general elections but the junta refused to hand over power.

Moreover, the junta formulated a seven-step so-called road map to democracy and its fifth step is to hold general elections.

The referendum on the constitution, the fourth step of the road map, which guarantees the role of military in future government was held in May 10 and 27 despite Nargis Cyclone killing more than 134,000 people a few days earlier.

Another option is that the USDA may not transform into a political party but a breeding ground for election candidates as individuals and Hluttaws (Houses) will be filled up with a majority of pro-military parliamentarians along with some representatives of cease-fire ethnic group's parliamentarians. The junta hopes some ethnic groups will participate in the elections. In this case, there will be no political party for opposition and only individual opposition.

Last but not the least, senior National League for Democracy members – now in their seventies – would be props to the generals who are wielding their strong positions in power.

"The political figures – such as Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo, and young as Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi – are now in detention. Without them the NLD's political activities, especially for competing in the election is not as absolutely reliable as it was in 1990," said a Mandalay-based political observer.

The government is also preparing to make amendments to the 1990 election law in order to keep out those who contested the election then and were against the military regime, he said.

The observer continued that present NLD activities are already infiltrated with thugs and informers orchestrated by the military regime.

"That way, the generals not just divide and rule the country but divide and will win the election also," he said.

Every option could be a success story for the generals, while all of them could be coming in a unified fashion to make sure that results of the 2010 election is in favour of the generals.

However, it is intense international pressure and recent domestic struggles that moved the junta to hold a referendum in May on a proposed new constitution written under military guidance, to be followed by a general election in 2010.

The generals seem to be aware that their slow progress to a democracy could pave the way for others – including some western nations – to intervene or exploit Burma domestic affairs, and they are poised to become stronger, said the observer.

Meanwhile, the new constitution guarantees 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the military, plus it allows the president to hand over all power to the military in a state of emergency.

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