Friday, 3 October 2008

Than Shwe Delays Signing Election Law

By MIN LWIN - The Irrawaddy News

The head of the Burmese military regime, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, has still not approved the country’s election law, which authorizes an election in 2010 and the constitutional backing for the Burmese armed forces to retain at least 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

Sources within the Burmese military said that although the election law had been approved by the constitution process, it was still on Than Shwe’s desk waiting to be signed.

Win Min, a Burmese military analyst based in Thailand, said that Than Shwe will not authorize the document until closer to the election date.

Rumors are circulating in Naypyidaw and Rangoon that Than Shwe and his No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, have argued recently about which officers would be given parliamentary seats and which would continue in military service.

Military sources said that Than Shwe is the key player in deciding which military officers run in the election.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win said that the fifth step of the junta’s “road map”—a general election—will be completed in 2010 and that all necessary measures are being taken for the election.

He also said in his speech that all citizens, regardless of political affiliation, will have equal rights to form political parties and the government will make every effort to ensure that the election will be free and fair.

According to the constitution approved in May, 25 percent of the seats in the Burmese parliament will be reserved for members of the military, nominated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese Defence Services.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military analyst living on the China-Burma border, said that Than Shwe wanted to keep his grip on power and was preparing to form a political party to compete in the 2010 election.

According to military sources, regional military commanders competed for Than Shwe’s approval during the constitutional referendum in May. The commanders were told that unless their regions produced a high percentage of Yes votes, they could find themselves “retired” or transferred to inactive positions.

Official figures concluded that more than 90 percent of the electorate voted “Yes” despite the process being labeled a “sham” by most observers.

Since Than Shwe seized power in 1992, he has relegated his colleagues and opponents ruthlessly if he suspected they were not loyal to him. In 2004, he purged former Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt and his supporters for disobeying him. Khin Nyunt has been under house arrest ever since.

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