Page last updated at 05:43 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 06:43 UK

Burma's NLD democracy party dissolved

NLD member locks the gates to the Rangoon headquarters on 6 May 2010
The NLD ceased to exist as a political party at midnight on Thursday

The pro-democracy party of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been disbanded after a registration deadline for elections expired.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) is boycotting the polls because it says the laws under which they will be held are unfair.

Burma's military leaders say any existing party that fails to re-register must disband.

The NLD overwhelmingly won elections in 1990 but was never allowed to govern.

The forthcoming polls - for which no date has yet been set - will be Burma's first in 20 years.

We still have the support of the people, we cannot just put our hands up
Win Tin

International observers have roundly criticised the newly enacted election laws - and critics say the military will use the election to strengthen its grip on power.

On the eve of the deadline, senior NLD leader and co-founder Win Tin told the BBC that the mood at NLD headquarters in Rangoon was sad but defiant.

"We decided as a party, as a whole [to boycott the election]. It it is a great moment for us, it is a great message to the military that our party is sound," he said.

Laws which he called "oppressive" made registering for the polls impossible, he said.

"[Even] if people vote for us, we cannot win, according to the law and the situation," he said.

New party?

The election laws, announced in March, ban anyone with a criminal conviction from being a member of a political party.

That meant that the NLD would have to expel Ms Suu Kyi and many other key leaders if it wanted to take part in the polls. The laws also nullified the NLD's 1990 victory.

Leaders including PM Thein Sein (second left) on 27 March 2010
Leaders like PM Thein Sein (2nd L) are expected to run as civilians in the polls

Under the military-drafted constitution, 25% of seats in parliament are reserved for the military.

Several top military officials are also reported to have stepped down to run as civilian candidates, potentially further strengthening military numbers in the chamber.

The registration for new political parties begins on Friday and reports suggest that some ex-NLD members are regrouping to form a new party that can contest the polls.

Win Tin said the NLD would continue to function as a group, rather than a political party.

The NLD was founded in 1988, in the wake of the 8/8/88 anti-government violence. Since the party's 1990 election win, Ms Suu Kyi has spent much of her time in some form of detention.

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