Suu Kyi party splits, faction to run in Myanmar poll

NAYPYITAW Thu May 6, 2010 4:13pm EDT

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand hold portraits of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and shout slogans during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok May 31, 2009. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand hold portraits of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and shout slogans during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok May 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

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NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - A splinter faction of Myanmar's biggest opposition party said Thursday it would form its own political party following the boycott of this year's election by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

The NLD was effectively disbanded at midnight Thursday when the registration deadline expired, but a senior member told Reuters a breakaway group would form a new opposition party to be called the National Democracy Force (NDF).

NLD executives voted unanimously on March 29 to shun the much-derided polls because unjust election laws barred many of its senior figures from running.

The NLD boycott came six days after Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner detained for 15 of the past 21 years because of her pro-democracy fight, said she "would not dream" of registering the NLD for the election.

The comment was widely interpreted as a veiled instruction to NLD members ahead of a party vote on the issue, however, NLD insiders said some party members feared it would play into the hands of Myanmar's military rulers.

"We are planning to apply to the Election Commission for permission to set up a political party in a few days," Khin Maung Swe, a former NLD committee member told Reuters by telephone.

Asked about the fate of the NLD, he said: "It's gone -- no matter what (members against the election) keep saying."

The new NDF party will be chaired by Than Nyein and involve former NLD figures Win Naing and Thein Nyunt, he added.

PULLING THE STRINGS

NLD leaders opposed to the election said they would continue to fight for the Burmese people and would carry on with social and political activities even after the party was disbanded.

The NLD won the last election in 1990 by a landslide, a result the junta ignored and recently annulled.

A total of 30 groups have applied to set up new political parties and 24 had been approved by May 4. New parties have until June 6 to apply.

Seventeen of them represent Myanmar's numerous ethnic groups. Six are believed to be allied with the military, which has ruled with an iron fist for almost five decades.

Only four of 10 existing parties have applied to run. Three, including the National Unity Party (NUP), comprise former members of the pro-junta Socialist Program Party.

At least 20 ministers, including Prime Minister Thein Sein, resigned from their military positions last week to run in the election as civilians.

Most are expected to join the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a new party representing a powerful junta-led social organization that claims to have 24 million members -- about half of Myanmar's population.

The elections, whose date has been kept secret, have been derided as sham designed to entrench army rule by allowing the military to retain control over key ministries while pulling the strings behind a civilian-fronted government.

Under the 2008 constitution, approved by a disputed referendum, the military will be allocated 25 percent of parliamentary seats and a third of the senate.

Former generals and junta proxies are expected to take up many of the other seats, limiting the powers of any elected opposition.

(Writing by Martin Petty)

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