Burmese Election Laws an Insult to Democracy and Rule of Law

Press release

On March 9, the military regime in Burma has enacted two draconian election laws for the polls, the dates for which remain unknown. The Political Parties Registration Law bars monks, nuns, and leaders of other religions, civil servants, political prisoners, among others, from participating in the elections, effectively disenfranchising well over a million people, as did the 2008 constitutional referendum.

The law also requires political parties to expel all imprisoned members, excluding de facto Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in the elections, and pledge allegiance to the 2008 Constitution. Political parties are also obliged to decide within the next 60 days whether to accept the terms of the laws and register officially, if not, they will be declared illegal and remain excluded from political life.

The Union Election Commission Law allows the regime to appoint members to the Electoral Commission, which will have the final decision-making authority to convene and conduct the election, including the power to administer and direct political parties.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) and Burma Lawyer’s Council (BLC) deplore these undemocratic restrictions and their clear violation of international standards of free, fair, participatory and transparent elections.

The regime’s unilateral decision to enact the laws came with neither an inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders from democracy groups and ethnic nationalities nor a comprehensive review of the sham 2008 Constitution, which also contains provisions banning political prisoners from seeking public office and cementing military dominance in all branches of government and in ethnic areas.

The laws are therefore extension of the 2008 Constitution and demonstrate yet again the regime’s continued refusal to meet a number of key benchmarks articulated by the international community and Burmese groups, including the prompt and unconditional release of all political prisoners and the full restoration of their civil and political rights to allow them to participate freely in the political process.

With these laws, the military regime will be able to conduct the elections exactly according to its wishes, and political parties that choose to abide by the rules will not be able to campaign freely. Any effective preparation for the transition to democracy requires the complete reform of these election laws and the 2008 Constitution itself.
“These rules are blatant insults to the principles of democracy and international standards,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH, and “the results of the elections, under the climate of fear and shameless manipulation, cannot be considered legitimate and will only intensify tension within Burma and perpetuate the widespread abuses of the Burmese people at the hands of the military junta.”

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