YANGON, March 8 (BSS/AFP) - Myanmar's military government on Monday unveiled long-awaited laws for elections later this year but gave no immediate date for the country's first polls in two decades, state media said.
Junta supremo Than Shwe promised the elections in 2008 as part of his so-called "roadmap to democracy" but critics say the vote will be a sham if pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.
"The laws were enacted by the State Peace and Development
Council and the details of the laws will be published in
tomorrow's newspaper and also will be published as a book," state
television and radio said, referring to the junta by its formal
It was unclear if a date for the election would be included
in the details to be released later. Analysts have predicted the
polls will take place in October or November.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) has not yet
decided whether it will take part in the elections and has said
it will wait until it sees the laws. The party was not
immediately available for comment.
The five laws enacted were the political parties
registration law and four separate laws for the national election
commission, the election commissions of the two houses of
parliament and all regional parliaments.
The NLD won Myanmar's last national polls by a landslide in
1990 but the junta refused to let it take office. Nobel Peace
laureate Suu Kyi has been in detention for 14 of the last 20
years since then.
The government claims the earlier poll results were
nullified by a new constitution agreed in a May 2008 referendum
in the wake of a devastating cyclone that killed up to 138,000
people in Myanmar.
The constitution also effectively bars Suu Kyi from standing
even if she were released from her house arrest, which was
extended by 18 months in August due to an incident in which an
American man swam to her lakeside home.
The constitution further reserves around a quarter of all
parliamentary seats for serving members of the military.
The UN rights envoy to Myanmar said after visiting in
February that the polls would be neither fair nor free if Suu Kyi
and another 2,100 political prisoners were kept in detention.
But analysts said that the elections could still be a
catalyst for partial change.
"I see the elections themselves as being totally rigged and
closed," Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert at Macquarie University
in Australia, told AFP.
"But we are in an interesting period in the lead-up because
there is a lot more uncertainty than anyone really expected.
There do seem to be some people (in the regime) jockeying
around," he added.
Analysts have suggested the elections could herald at least
a formal change in the hierarchy at the top of the junta, even if
real power remains in the hands of 76-year-old Than Shwe and his
The junta has increased contacts with Suu Kyi since
September. Media reports quoted Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo as
saying in January that the democracy leader's release would come
in November, though there has been no official confirmation.
In recent months the United States, followed by the European
Union, has shifted towards a policy of greater engagement with
Myanmar, as sanctions have failed to bear fruit.