Election seen as crucial step for Myanmar set for Nov. 8

AP News
|
Posted: Jul 08, 2015 8:47 AM
Election seen as crucial step for Myanmar set for Nov. 8

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A general election seen as a crucial next step for Myanmar's transition to democracy has been scheduled for Nov. 8.

The military that ruled the Southeast Asian nation since 1964 scheduled Myanmar's last general election in 2010 under rules widely seen as rigging the outcome to favor a military-backed party, which won the lion's share of parliamentary seats. The nominally civilian government in office since 2011 has made lauded reforms though progress has stalled.

The announcement of the poll date signed by Union Election Commission chairman Tin Aye was posted Wednesday on the commission's website.

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party, which seeks more changes in the constitution, has not yet committed to taking part in the new polls, saying last month that it would decide only after the exact date was announced.

Suu Kyi has repeatedly said the election cannot be free or fair if the constitution is not amended.

The constitution was enacted during military rule, and gives the army a dominant say in the administration of the country. One clause mandates that 25 percent of the seats in Parliament be held by the military, ensuring it has veto power over constitutional amendments.

Another clause has the practical effect of barring Suu Kyi from becoming president. Parliament turned back recent efforts to change those two key rules.

The announcement said political parties can submit their candidate list from July 20 until Aug. 8.

"The party will hold a meeting to decide whether to participate in the elections or not. Anyhow, the time given for candidate list submission is too short," said NLD senior leader and spokesman Han Tha Myint.

Suu Kyi's party boycotted the 2010 polls as they considered the election rules unfair, but took part in later by-elections after changes were instituted, winning almost all seats it contested.

It would be expected to mount a strong challenge to the ruling army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

A total of 498 seats for lower and upper houses, 644 region and state parliament seats and 29 national races seats will be up for grabs. There are altogether 83 registered parties according to the election commission list.