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Posted 2011-11-18 14:50:22
Suu Kyi party announces official Myanmar comeback
by Hla Hla Htay
YANGON, November 18, 2011 (AFP) - Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's long-marginalised opposition party announced Friday that it would register for future elections, paving the way for her to run for office for the first time.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) said it would re-register as a political party and contest coming by-elections after boycotting last year's poll -- the latest sign of tentative progress in military-dominated Myanmar.
"We have to take part in all (available) constituencies. Why? The NLD has not worked as a political party for a long time so we need to practise as a political party again," Suu Kyi told party delegates, before their official decision was announced.
The NLD won a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but the then-ruling junta never allowed the party to take power. Suu Kyi, although a figurehead for the campaign, was under house arrest throughout.
Myanmar's next election was not held until November last year, and the NLD boycotted it -- mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was again under house arrest.
The 66-year-old, who was released a few days after the vote and has spent 15 of the past 22 years in detention, hinted on Friday that she would contest one of the 48 by-election seats available. No polling dates have been announced.
"If I think I should take part in the election, I will. Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity," she told senior party members in Yangon.
"I stand for the re-registration of the NLD party. I would like to work effectively towards amending the constitution. So we have to do what we need to do."
Party spokesman Nyan Win said the group would re-register as soon as they could, possibly next week. Asked whether Suu Kyi would stand, he said: "I believe she will."
The party's gathering came as the US signalled a thaw in relations with the long-isolated nation, with President Barack Obama saying he would send Hillary Clinton on the first trip to Myanmar by a US secretary of state for 50 years.
Obama noted "flickers of progress" in the Southeast Asian country, a day after he spoke directly to Suu Kyi for the first time, although he said more needed to be done.
Speaking in Indonesia ahead of an East Asia summit, the US president said Clinton would visit Myanmar next month to see if Washington can "empower" its nascent reform process. Officials said she would visit for two days from December 1.
Myanmar's 2010 election, widely discredited by outside observers, brought the army's political proxies to power after decades of outright military rule, but the new government has surprised critics with a number of reformist moves.
It has held direct talks with Suu Kyi, freed some 200 dissidents from jail, frozen work on an unpopular mega-dam and passed a law giving workers the right to strike.
As a reward for its conciliatory moves, Myanmar has won Southeast Asia's backing to chair the region's ASEAN bloc in 2014, despite the United States warning that the move was premature.
Analysts say the return of the NLD would add to the legitimacy of the army-backed government, which is seeking to end its global isolation by loosening political shackles -- but would also increase the relevance of the popular but long-excluded Suu Kyi.
Renaud Egreteau, Myanmar expert at Hong Kong University, said Suu Kyi had been led "back to the game" by Prime Minister Thein Sein.
"It is he and his entourage who have brought Aung San Suu Kyi back to the front of the stage because they need her," he told AFP.
About 100 figures from the NLD travelled from across Myanmar for Friday's meeting, where delegates for each regional grouping spoke in favour of re-registering as a political party.
"We will follow Aung San Suu Kyi's decision as we unconditionally believe in her. If she takes part in the coming by-election we have no objection at all," Ba Swe, a party member from the Irrawaddy region, west of Yangon, told AFP.
-- © Copyright AFP 2011-11-18
Posted 2011-11-20 12:09:02
We can have hope but I am sure there is a long way to go still on the path to democracy.
Posted 2011-11-25 12:04:08
Suu Kyi party launches Myanmar political comeback
by Hla Hla Htay
NAYPYIDAW, November 25, 2011 (AFP) - Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition began its formal return to mainstream Myanmar politics Friday as it applied to re-register as a political party, paving the way for her to run in elections.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) announced a week ago it would seek to sign up as a party again -- after boycotting last year's parliamentary poll -- amid signs of reform in a country long dominated by the military.
Party officials have indicated that the 66-year-old Suu Kyi herself is likely to stand in upcoming by-elections, where 48 seats will be up for grabs, though she has yet to confirm this and no date has been set for a vote.
The NLD filed papers at the national electoral commission in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday morning, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
The commission is expected to take at least a week to approve the application, after which the NLD will need to return with two of its leaders to complete the process.
"We are very glad because this is the first step to re-registration. For the next step, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi needs to come to the electoral commission office herself," NLD spokesman Nyan Win, who led the delegation, told AFP. Daw is a term of respect.
The NLD gave the electoral commission the names of 21 party founders, including Suu Kyi.
Friday's application was a low-key affair, with only six NLD representatives in attendance. Access to the remote capital is strictly controlled and no party supporters were present.
No decision has yet been made on a new NLD symbol, after the party abandoned its traditional bamboo hat logo.
After decades of outright military rule, a much-criticised election in November last year -- Myanmar's first in 20 years -- brought a nominally civilian government to power, albeit one dominated by the army and its proxies.
The new administration has surprised many observers with a series of reformist moves, including holding talks with Suu Kyi, passing a law giving workers the right to strike and releasing hundreds of political prisoners.
The NLD boycotted last year's election mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time.
The party's decision last Friday to end its boycott came on the same day the military-dominated government received a dramatic seal of approval from the United States for its nascent reforms.
After speaking directly to Nobel laureate Suu Kyi for the first time, President Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton would visit Myanmar next week -- the first US secretary of state to do so in 50 years.
Obama said Clinton's trip was designed to stoke "flickers" of democratic reform in a country that for decades has been blighted by military rule and international isolation.
In another diplomatic coup last week, Myanmar also won approval from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to chair the 10-nation bloc in 2014.
The NLD won a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but the then-ruling junta never allowed the party to take power. Suu Kyi, although a figurehead for the campaign, was under house arrest at the time.
Myanmar President Thein Sein -- a former general -- told a small group of Myanmar journalists in Indonesia on Saturday that he was happy about the NLD's plans to re-enter mainstream politics and would welcome Suu Kyi to parliament.
Analysts say the return of the NLD will add to the legitimacy of the army-backed government, which is seeking to end its global isolation -- but would also increase the relevance of the popular but long-excluded Suu Kyi.
After spending 15 of the past 22 years in detention, Suu Kyi told her party last week that they should contest all the seats available in the by-elections.
-- © Copyright AFP 2011-11-25