Myanmar Poll Body Heeds Opposition's Complaints

Published February 20, 2012 11:36AM (EST)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Election authorities have lifted some restrictions on political campaigning after the party of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi complained.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said earlier Monday that the rules risked making upcoming by-elections unfair.

The Union Election Commission's decision to lift the restrictions was unusually quick for Myanmar. Bureaucratic wheels grind slowly even where there are no political hurdles in the country where a nominally civilian government replaced a military one just a year ago.

The restrictions had prevented political meetings at football fields in three constituencies and in a village in Kachin state where sporadic fighting has occurred.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The party of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi charged Monday that restrictions on its campaigning risk making upcoming by-elections unfair.

National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win said the party faces difficulty in getting permission to use public venues for its meetings ahead of the April 1 polls.

"What we want is fair play but the restrictions have increased lately. It is very difficult to say that the upcoming by-elections could be free and fair," Nyan Win told reporters.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is running for one of the 48 parliamentary seats being contested. Her party overwhelmingly won a 1990 general election but the military refused to allow it to take power.

The NLD boycotted a 2010 general election, saying the rules were unfair. It agreed to rejoin electoral politics last year when the new military-backed elected president, Thein Sein, began implementing democratic reforms.

Nyan Win, also the NLD's campaign manager, said some government organizations had blocked the party's campaign activities even though they had been approved by the state Union Election Commission.

He said Sports Minister Tint Hsan raised objections to the NLD's use of football fields in three constituencies — Hlegu in northern Yangon, the central city of Mandalay and the Irrawaddy delta town of Phyapon — after local election commissions had approved such meetings.

Tint Hsan's son, Phyo Ko Ko Tint Hsan, is a candidate in the by-elections for the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Nyan Win said that after the sports minister objected to the use of the football fields, the Union Election Commission declared that no football fields could be used for party organizing.

The NLD has sent a complaint to the election commission but it has not responded, he said.

Nyan Win also said the election commission in Mogaung township in Kachin State had refused to allow the NLD to organize in a village called Namti on security grounds.

Kachin State is the site of sporadic but sometimes fierce fighting between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels, who have long sought more autonomy and have faced increased repression in the past year.

"The authorities said they will not give permission for the NLD to campaign in Namti village because of security reasons. If security in the region is good enough for the government to hold elections, then it is inappropriate to ban organizational activity based on security grounds," Nyan Win said.

By Salon Staff

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