Myanmar's junta-backed party announces platform

AP News
Posted: Oct 09, 2010 9:44 AM
Myanmar's junta-backed party announces platform

Myanmar's junta-backed political party, almost certain to win the upcoming general election, issued its platform in state media, vowing to practice democracy and protect rights.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party "will practice the multiparty democracy system, market-oriented economic system and independent and active foreign policies," according to a text of the statement by Htay Oo, agriculture minister and the party's secretary general. His statement was published Saturday in the New Light of Myanmar state newspaper.

In his Friday night broadcast, he said his party will guarantee people's "rights and liabilities ... in line with the constitution," as well as freedom of religion in Myanmar, whose military government is criticized worldwide for its poor human rights record.

All parties are allowed a 15-minute broadcast, and the USDP's platform echoes the military's claims to be striving for unity and democracy. The party is widely expected to win the election because its ties with the junta give it easy funding and a nationwide presence.

The general elections on Nov. 7 are the first in 20 years. Detained Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory in the 1990 polls but was not allowed to take power by the military. It decided to boycott this year's elections, charging that the process is unfair and undemocratic.

Compared to the junta's usual hard tack accusing Suu Kyi and other democracy activists of working in cahoots with foreigner to undermine the nation, the party statement took a soft approach, saying "We will strive to protect the nation against internal and external dangers," without specifying what they might be.

In what could be taken as an oblique reference to Suu Kyi's now disbanded National League for Democracy party, Htay Oo said that the USDP "deem officially registered political parties and individuals as colleagues."

Under the new election law, Suu Kyi's party was legally dissolved because it failed to reregister to run in the election. Her party is seeking a court ruling reversing the party's dissolution.

Suu Kyi has been locked away for 15 of the past 21 years. Her latest term of 18 months' house arrest is due to expire on Nov. 13, just days after the scheduled polls.

Altogether 37 political parties including the USDP will contest the election for 1,157 seats, including 494 seats in Myanmar's two-chamber Union Parliament and 663 spread among 14 regional parliaments. The USDP is the only party fielding candidates in almost all constituencies.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party was formed from a junta-backed mass social organization called the Union Solidarity and Development Association, founded in 1993 and drawing much of its support from the country's vast civil service.

In April this year it was turned into a political party, just a few days after Prime Minister Thein Sein and 26 Cabinet colleagues in uniform resigned their military posts to make them eligible to take part in politics.