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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Burma military passes key election laws

Burma's leader Gen Than Shwe (file image)
Gen Than Shwe has warned people to make "correct choices" in the polls

Burma's military government has approved election laws that pave the way for polls expected this year.

Details of the laws have not yet been revealed but they are likely to include issues such as campaigning and the number of candidates per constituency.

The poll is part of the government's "roadmap to democracy", which has been widely criticised in the West.

Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi cannot stand and her party has not confirmed it will take part.

It has said it wants to see the details of the new laws before deciding whether to field candidates, and has criticised the timing of the new laws.

The five elections laws will be published in detail on Tuesday, Burma's state media said.

The laws are expected to lay out rules on how long candidates can campaign for, how they will register, how many candidates can run in each constituency and which parties - if any - will have access to state media for their campaign.

The document could also answer the key question of when the elections, the first in 20 years, will be held, says the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey.

Burma's last general election, in 1990, was overwhelmingly won by Ms Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), but the military government annulled the result.

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The authorities have already made it clear that Ms Suu Kyi will not be allowed to take part in the polls.

Aung San Suu Kyi (file image)
Ms Suu Kyi is not expected to be free in time for the elections

She was married to a British academic - and a clause in the constitution bans anyone married to a foreign national from holding political office.

She has been under house arrest for much of the past two decades and in August last year her latest period of detention was extended until November 2010.

The extension was seen by some analysts as a further guarantee for the military that she will not be able to campaign for others in the elections either.

The NLD has not yet said whether it will take part in the elections, as it considers the constitution under which they will be held unfair and aimed at perpetuating military rule.

Spokesman Nyan Win criticised the timing of the new laws so soon before an election is to take place.

"There is not enough time, the parties are not ready, they cannot lobby or campaign," he told reporters on Monday.

General Than Shwe has said his government's seven-stage roadmap is the only way for the country to achieve democracy.

In January, he urged Burmese people to make "correct choices" in the elections.

Correspondents said many people in Burma would interpret the remarks as an implicit warning to back the military.



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