Myanmar’s military junta Friday announced a new law that restricts the ability of political parties to participate in elections. The new Political Parties Registration Law contains strict provisions, such as requiring parties that wish to take part in the upcoming election to recruit a minimum of 100,000 party members within 90 days and giving the Union Election Commission the ultimate authority to determine whether the parties are established in compliance with the law.
Under the new regulations, party applications that are deemed illegal or applications from terrorist groups designated under any existing law will be rejected. Previous convicts will not be allowed to set up a new political group. The new regulations also bar parties who engage with organisations or individuals that committed state-declared acts of violence or terrorist acts from participation.
In state or regional elections, parties need at least 1,000 members within 90 days from the date of approval as well as funding of at least 1 million kyats to participate. As for national-level elections, parties need at least 100 million kyats deposited in the state-owned bank of Myanmar Commercial Bank. Additionally, the national-level parties would need to open offices in 150 townships, which is half of the country’s total.
The Commission has been given the authority to review the applications and to check if the facts submitted by the parties are accurate. The law also declares the Commission’s decision as final, and no applicants shall have the right to appeal the decision to any court. If necessary, the Commission is enabled to formulate rules and regulations necessary to implement these provisions.
Deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Phil Robertson commented that the Myanmar junta is “set[ting] the stage for [the] dissolution of the National League for Democracy party (NLD), landslide winner of the Nov 2020 election.” Robertson described the rules as “ridiculous” and said that nothing is “free or fair” about letting the military hand-picked Commission issue the requirements.
The NLD accused the military council, led by Commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, of illegitimately seizing state power by “alleging a fraudulent voters’ list.” The party claimed to have received valid votes from eligible voters in 2020 and the its elected members were recognised by the Commission. The group also accused the military council of “attempting to secure political legitimacy” using the new regulations, alleging that Hlaing is guilty of high treason and that the upcoming election as illegal. The NLD “will steadfastly object the sham elections of the military. Any individual and entity cooperating with the military council shall be deemed as accomplices of the high treason.”
Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director Ming Yu Hah described the regulations as a “nationwide assault on human rights” and condemned the “shockingly inadequate global response” to the crisis. Despite the UN Security Council’s response to the Myanmar crisis in December last year, demanding an “immediate end to violence in Myanmar,” Hah stressed the need for world governments to apply more pressure on the military for the release of prisoners and to take immediate action to address the crisis.
The NLD urged the international community, especially ASEAN member countries, to increase efforts in supporting the people of Myanmar to establish “federal democracy and in holding the military council accountable through international laws for its crimes.”