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Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Burma rulers to 'hand-pick' election commission

By Rachel Harvey
BBC South East Asia Correspondent, Bangkok

Burma's leader Gen Than Shwe (file image)
Critics say Gen Than Shwe will allow only military loyalists to run for office

The first details of Burma's newly enacted election laws have been published in state-controlled media.

Burma's military government announced on Monday that the long awaited laws had been passed - a crucial step.

No date for the poll has been set, but the ruling generals have promised that it will be sometime this year.

Critics say the elections, the first to be held in Burma for 20 years, will be a sham designed to entrench the military's grip on power.

There are five election laws in total and so far the details of the first, concerning the election commission, have been made public.

Integrity

There are few surprises and little comfort for pro-democracy campaigners.

The commission itself will be hand-picked by the current military government, and its decisions will be final.

Each member of the election body must be at least 50 years old, be deemed by the ruling generals to be a person of integrity, and not a member of any political party.

Critics fear that in effect, that means the election commission will be staffed by military loyalists.

The details of four more laws will be published in the coming days.

They focus on the two new houses of parliament, the polls for regional and state elections and the registration of political parties.

The details of the new laws will be carefully scrutinised for any sign that Burma's first election for two decades could be more transparent and representative than many fear.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently wrote to the head of the Burmese military government to express his concern about the credibility of the vote and the process leading up to it.



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