A list of rules for campaining ahead of November’s general election has been published by Myanmar authorities. The rules prevent candidates from making speeches that “tarnish” the ruling military government.
The state Election Commission decreed the 13-point list of opaquely-worded campaign regulations in order to guarantee a “free and fair” vote, the government run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Thursday.
Parties must seek permission a week in advance to hold public events so security forces can “safeguard” the gatherings.
And if gatherings are deemed to be breaching the peace, authorities will be able to prohibit “the act of holding flags and shouting slogans”.
The rules also say that offenders will be barred from standing in the elections, and that prospective candidates could also face fines and jail terms.
The national polls were already described by opposition parties and democracy advocates as an elaborate sham before the new regulations. They say the polls’ aim is to legitimate the military’s grip on power.
According to analysts the military plans to retain its power through the Union of Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is made up of serving ministers who recently retired from the army, and the backing of several smaller parties.
Critics expect the ruling generals to control campaign activities of their opponents in order to ensure its proxies win most votes.
Unless the military allows thousands of imprisoned political opponents, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to participate, the US, Britain and human rights groups said that elections will be illegitimate.
For much of the last 21 years, Suu Kyi has been under arrest. Her continued detention was expected to make her ineligible to run for election.
Her National League for Democracy (NDL) party won the country’s last national election in 1990, but was prevented from taking power by the military.
The NLD officially ceased to exist after refusing to register to take part in the November 7 polls.
“We decided to officially boycott the election because we believe that the 2008 constitution and the electoral laws do not guarantee democracy and human rights in the country,” Tin Oo, the NLD vice-chairman, told The Associated Press news agency on Thursday.
The 2008 constitution will allow the military 25% of parliamentary seats and a third of the senate.
Tin Oo also said : “We have no interest in the election and we want to give a clear message to the voters that they have the right not to vote in the upcoming elections.”
So far forty political parties, mostly representing ethnic groups, have registered to run in the elections for the national parliament, senate or one of 14 regional assemblies.
Although it is still unclear when the official campaign period begins, the Electoral Commission plans to finish its scrutiny of candidates by September 10.