(Reuters) - A total of 37 political parties have been given the go-ahead to run in Myanmar’s election on Sunday for seats in the military-ruled country’s first civilian assemblies in nearly five decades.
However, few will field enough candidates to mount a significant challenge to two big parties seen as proxies for the junta, which is unlikely to cede real power.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which swept the last polls in 1990 but was never allowed to rule, has boycotted the vote because of what it said were unfair rules. Suu Kyi is in detention and her party was officially dissolved in September 14.
Below are details of the main parties running for seats in a bicameral national parliament and 14 regional assemblies.
With candidates in all 1,158 constituencies -- for seats in the two houses of parliament and 14 regional assemblies -- the USDP is almost assured of overall victory. It is seen as the political juggernaut of the junta, armed with a big war chest and packed with recently retired military men.
It is also backed by wealthy business interests, anxious to nurture political connections with a new government that could continue a recent privatization campaign. Opponents say it gets special privileges from the generals.
Prime Minister Thein Sein will lead the party, supported by at least 27 incumbent ministers who, like him, have swapped military fatigues for civilian clothes. The most prominent members are the junta’s third and fourth in command, Thura Shwe Man and Thihathura Tin Aung Myint Oo.
Another party seen as a military proxy, the NUP was backed by the generals in the 1990 polls but won only 10 of the 492 house seats. The junta simply ignored the result and carried on ruling.
The NUP will field candidates in 980 constituencies and is likely to fare better this time around, with a populist platform aimed at helping millions of impoverished farmers.
It is led by Tun Yi, a former deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The party was formerly known as the Myanmar Socialist Programme Party, created by late dictator Ne Win. It was the only party allowed to exist from 1964 to 1988.
The NDF is led by renegade members of Suu Kyi’s NLD.
The NDF believes the NLD boycott was counter-productive and sees itself as the only real opposition to the junta’s proxies. Its popularity is hard to gauge. It says restrictive campaign laws and a lack of time and money mean it will only contest 166 constituencies, just 14 percent of the seats.
The SNDP is the main party in Myanmar’s biggest state, a region bordering China where various armed ethnic minority groups have enjoyed de facto self-rule for decades.
The SNDP will run in 157 constituencies, mostly for seats in a state assembly. However, with disunity in Shan State, attempts to block campaigning, fears of an imminent offensive by government troops and balloting already scrapped in scores of villages, the SNDP is unlikely to have much impact.
The party was founded in 2005 and says it has 150,000 members. It is led by Aye Lwin, a former student activist during a 1988 uprising that was crushed by the military.
However, Aye Win’s pro-democracy credentials have been questioned. Opponents say Aye Lwin has close ties to the junta and say his party, which will run in 51 constituencies, has received financial support from it.
Another party that ran in the 1990 polls and has long opposed military rule. It is pushing for a genuine democratic system free from cronyism and political or ethnic discrimination. Its leader, Thu Wai, is a veteran politician and former political prisoner. It will contest just 49 constituencies nationwide.
The second-largest of the 22 ethnic-based parties signed up for the polls, the RNDP will field candidates in 44 constituencies.
KAYIN PEOPLE‘S PARTY (KPP)
Another ethnic minority party, it was formed to serve Karen communities living outside Karen State, where there is conflict between the military and rebels.
Despite its activist-like title and a leader, Ye Tun, who was jailed for taking part in the 1988 protests against military rule, the party is widely believed to be close to the junta. It will contest just 38 constituencies.
Compiled by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould