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Page last updated at 12:31 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 13:31 UK

Burma leaders 'shed uniforms for polls'

Leaders including PM Thein Sein (second left) on 27 March 2010
Thein Sein (second left) is said to be among the top leaders stepping down

Several senior leaders in Burma have stepped down from their military posts so that they can run in forthcoming elections, reports say.

PM Thein Sein was said to be among about 20 ministers who retired from military posts late on Monday night.

They are expected to run as civilian politicians in Burma's first election in two decades, although it is not yet clear what platform they will use.

Critics say Burma's generals are using the polls to strengthen their control.

The polls will be the first since those of 1990, which were won overwhelmingly by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

The NLD was never allowed to take power and it is boycotting these elections because of what it says are unjust electoral laws designed to exclude most of its key leaders.

No date set

Twenty-five per cent of the seats in Burma's new parliament have already been reserved for the military.

But if military officials contested the polls as civilians, the armed forces could potentially take many more seats in the chamber.

Analysts say they could form a political party or run under the auspices of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the junta's mass organisation.

Burma's pro-democracy leaders and many Western nations have roundly criticised the laws under which the polls will be conducted.

Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior dissidents are banned from participating because of convictions linked to their political activism.

No date has yet been set for the elections but they are expected some time this year.



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