Friday, February 5, 2010

Burmese Elections imminent?

According to sources in the Burmese military, junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe will announce the election timetable and law by the end of February. The sources, who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of the information discussed, say that the army is recruiting candidates from outside its own ranks to compete in military-backed parties during the election, targeting businesspeople and community figures such as teachers in townships and villages across the country. Prominent candidates are likely to include leaders of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a "civil society organization" supported by the junta. The USDA has an estimated membership of 20 million people, many of whom have been forcibly recruited.

Burma watchers speculate that the junta will hold the polls on October 10—the 10th day of the 10th month of the 10th year—because it is thought to be auspicious for senior regime figures, who are said to be firm believers in numerology.

The extent of the choice available to the Burmese people has yet to be confirmed, however. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from competing due to her marriage to a British academic. Her presence on the campaign trail could galvanize her party and Burmese voters. However, she remains under house arrest and it seems unlikely that she will be released prior to the election, despite calls from the United States, United Nations and Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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