Myanmar designates constituencies for rare election

Myanmar is stepping up preparations for its first elections in two decades.

Yangon: Myanmar is stepping up preparations for its first elections in two decades, designating constituencies for its national and regional parliaments, state media reported on Thursday.

The military leaders have not yet announced a date for this year`s polls, which Western countries fear are a sham aimed at shoring up the junta`s half-century grip on power.

Under the 2008 Constitution, one quarter of the seats in Parliament are reserved for the military.

Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- who has spent much of the past 20 years in jail or under house arrest -- is barred from standing because she is a serving prisoner.

Her party, the National League for Democracy, opted to boycott the vote because of rules laid down by the junta that in effect would have forced it to expel Suu Kyi and other members in prison in order to participate.

The NLD is planning to sue the government again later this month over the elections, former NLD spokesman Nyan Win told reporters after meeting with Suu Kyi at her lakeside house on Wednesday.

"The rule of law is very weak. No system can succeed without any rule of law," he quoted the Nobel laureate as saying.

Suu Kyi also said that as no election data has yet been announced "it can be assumed that the situation is not normal”, Nyan Win added.

The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 but the junta never allowed it to take office.

A split has emerged in the opposition between those who decided to contest the upcoming election and others, including Suu Kyi, who favoured a boycott.

One pro-democracy party that is running in the polls said on Tuesday it had complained to the election authorities about intimidation of its members by security personnel.

Democratic Party chairman Thu Wai said special branch police were visiting members` homes and asking them for personal information and two photos each.

Phyo Min Thein, a former political prisoner, resigned as head of the Union Democratic Party (UDP) last week and said he would not participate in the election because it would not be free and fair.

So far 40 parties have been allowed to register to stand in the polls.

Bureau Report

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