Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Burma's leaders annul Suu Kyi's 1990 poll win

Aung San Suu Kyi (file image)
Ms Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power

Burma's leaders have formally annulled the National League for Democracy's 1990 election win, under laws enacted for polls expected later this year.

Authorities said the win was invalid because the poll had taken place under a law repealed by the new legislation.

The new laws have attracted a storm of criticism from international observers.

They banned NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior pro-democracy figures from taking part in the polls. A date for them has not yet been announced.

A US official said the laws made a mockery of the democratic process, while a UN spokesman said they fell short of expectations for an inclusive election.

After the 1990 polls, the military did not allow the NLD to take power. These elections will be the first in two decades.

They will be held under a new constitution which critics say is aimed at perpetuating military rule.

'Repressive laws'

The new elections laws were formally approved by Burma's military leaders on Monday and are being published in state media gradually.

It's a complete farce and therefore contrary to their roadmap to democracy
Alberto Romulo
Philippine Foreign Secretary

On Thursday a 17-member election commission was named to oversee the polls, headed by a former military officer described as a hard-liner.

On Wednesday laws were announced prohibiting those with criminal convictions or who are members of religious orders from belonging to a political party.

This means that jailed political activists - including many of the NLD's top leaders - cannot take part, or the monks who led anti-government protests two years ago.

According to NLD spokesman Nyan Win, who visited Ms Suu Kyi on Thursday, the detained pro-democracy leader condemned the new laws.

"Aung San Suu Kyi said she never expected such repressive laws would come out," he said.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win (file image)
Nyan Win said the NLD had not yet decided how to respond to the laws

"She said such challenges call for resolute responses and calls on the people and democratic forces to take unanimous action against such unfair laws."

However, several offices of the National League for Democracy were allowed to reopen on Thursday for the first time since 2003.

The government had sealed NLD branch offices with red wax after a deadly attack on Ms Suu Kyi's convoy by pro-regime elements on 30 May 2003.

Nyan Win described it as a positive step.

"I think they want us to take part in the election, but we still haven't made up our mind about this. We still need to talk it over among the top leaders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

'Devoid of credibility'

Condemnation of the new laws has come from one Asian neighbour, the Philippines, as well as from the UN, the US and other nations.

"Unless they release Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her and her party to participate in elections, it's a complete farce and therefore contrary to their roadmap to democracy," Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo told the Associated Press.

The Philippines is a partner with Burma in the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), whose 10 members rarely voice criticism of each other.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern over the new laws.

"The indications available so far suggest that they do not measure up to our expectations of what is needed for an inclusive political process," Martin Nesirky said.

And US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the laws made "a mockery of the democratic process and ensures the upcoming election will be devoid of credibility".

"Our engagement with Burma will have to continue until we can make clear that... the results thus far are not what we had expected and that they're going to have to do better," he added.

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