Myanmar set parliamentary by-elections for April 1, scheduling a highly anticipated vote that will return pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party to mainstream politics after two decades.
Before state media reported the date late Friday, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy had said they planned to run in every seat in the by-election.
Her party boycotted last year's general elections because of restrictive rules that among other things prevented Suu Kyi from being a candidate. The government has since lifted many of those restrictions.
Most of the 48 Parliament seats being contested were vacated by MPs who became Cabinet ministers after the first parliamentary session in January.
The military is guaranteed 110 seats in the 440-seat lower house, and 56 seats in the 224-seat upper house, and the pro-military party now occupies 80 percent of the remaining 498 elected seats, so the 48 seats up for grabs, even if the NLD wins them all, will not change the balance of power.
The official announcement said political parties that will contest in the by-election must submit their candidate list by Jan. 31.
The NLD reregistered as a political party on Dec. 23.
Allowing Suu Kyi's party back into the political fold will likely give the government greater legitimacy at home and abroad.
The by-elections will also be a test of the popularity of the NLD, and Suu Kyi has cautioned that "the road ahead is full of difficulties and the road to democracy is endless."
The NLD won an overwhelming majority in elections in May 1990, but the results were ignored by the military government in power at that time.
Last year's elections were the first since 1990, but Suu Kyi was under house arrest and disqualified as a candidate.