Main parties running in Myanmar`s election

Myanmar will hold its first election in two decades on November 7.

Last Updated: Oct 31, 2010, 13:09 PM IST

Yangon: Myanmar will hold its first election
in two decades on November 7; vote critics say is a sham
intended to put a civilian face on military rule.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will remain locked up
on election day and her National League for Democracy (NLD)
party is boycotting the poll.

Some democracy activists are taking part, hoping it will
open the door to change, even if the odds are stacked in
favour of two pro-junta parties, which are fielding about
two-thirds of the more than 3,000 candidates.

In total 37 parties, many with only a handful of
candidates will take part in the election for about 1,160
seats across a two-chamber national parliament as well as 14
regional legislatures.

These are some of the main parties standing in the rare
vote:

Union solidarity and development party: The junta-backed
USDP is the biggest party contesting the election and seen as
a proxy of the military regime.

It was formed by Prime Minister Thein Sein and other
ministers who retired from their military posts in April.

The party inherited considerable financial resources and
millions of members from the Union Solidarity and Development
Association (USDA), a powerful pro-junta organisation that was
merged into the USDP.

USDA members have been implicated in past attacks on Suu
Kyi and intimidation of opposition protesters.

The USDP says it has up to 18 million members and 1,112
candidates contesting almost all of the constituencies.

National unity party: The NUP is the successor to late
dictator Ne Win`s Burma Socialist Program Party, which
suffered a crushing defeat to Suu Kyi`s NLD in the 1990
election.

With 999 candidates, it is second only to the USDP in
terms of size.
Although widely seen as pro-junta, It could hold the
balance of power in parliament and the election of a president
and vice presidents.

Relations between the two parties are complicated by the
fact that current junta leader Than Shwe placed Ne Win under
house arrest in 2002 after members of his family were
convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime.
The NUP`s ageing leaders are said to have been loyal
followers of the strongman, who came to power in a 1962 coup
but bowed out after a failed 1988 uprising.

National democratic force: Formed by a group of former
NLD members, the NDF`s decision to stand in the election has
put it at odds with Suu Kyi, who was opposed to participating.
The NDF has described the vote as a "first step" towards
democracy in army-ruled Myanmar.

Suu Kyi`s closest political allies have accused them of
betraying their NLD colleagues and copying their party symbol
-- a bamboo hat.
Without the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the group is
expected to struggle to fill the NLD`s shoes and has only
about 162 candidates running in the election race.

Experts say their best chance may be to form a coalition
with other pro-democracy parties.

Shan nationalities democratic party: The party, one of
several carrying the hopes of Myanmar`s various ethnic groups,
is counting on the support of the vast majority of voters in
Shan State.

It is headed by prominent ethnic Shan leader Sai Aik
Paung, who says his party has chosen to give the military
regime the benefit of the doubt that the vote will be
democratic.
It is fielding 157 candidates, making it the fourth
biggest party.

The SNDP, widely known as the White Tiger party, believes
it is supported by 90 per cent of Shan State`s six million
people, which will have its own regional parliament.

Democratic Party (Myanmar): Led by 78-year-old veteran
politician Thu Wai and backed by the three "princesses" --
daughters of former top ministers -- the party has 47
candidates standing.

With a slogan of "vote courageously", its leaders say
they respect Suu Kyi but believe that a flawed election is
better than none.

The party complained to the election authorities in
August about intimidation of its members by security
personnel, who visited members` homes to ask for personal
information and photos.

PTI