Can Burma’s Junta-backed Party Overcome its Challengers?
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Can Burma’s Junta-backed Party Overcome its Challengers?

By – Zin Linn

Burmese junta-backed political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), electioneered for votes using State Radio and TV to contest for the imminent multi-party general election on 8 September.

The USDP general secretary U Htay Oo said that the party exercises the multi-party democracy system, market economy system as well as independent and active foreign policy in his 15-minute speech.

He emphasized the importance of national unity so as to strive for all national races to enjoy their rights fully. After that, the party has to establish developed industrial country.

On August 30 the Union Election Commission closed enlisting of candidates from political parties to contest in the election.

Political parties in Burma have complained the government has not given them sufficient time to find funding to register their candidates before August-30 closing date. The UEC said their offices will continue open over the weekend for candidates to register, but it is not be enough for many to raise the 500-dollar registration fee.

According to the UEC, the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by Prime Minister Thein Sein, is fielding 1,163 candidates, pro-junta National Unity Party (NUP) 994, a splinter faction from the NLD – National Democratic Force (NDF) 161, Shan Nationals Democratic Party (SNDP) 157, Democratic Party Myanmar (DPM) 49, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP)  45, Chin Progressive Party (CPP) 39 and the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP) 35.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party(USDP) was formed early June in 2010 with the Prime Minister U Thein Sein as USDP chairman.

The USDP, which is claimed as the strongest political party in Burma now, was transformed from the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which was established in 1993.

The USDP and the NUP are apparently beginning their election campaigning, whereas most of those national level parties are struggling with the imposed limitations of the electoral laws and directives of the regime’s Union Election Commission in order to function properly. Registered political parties have submitted a list of candidates to the Election Commission between September 16 and 30.

According to some intellectuals sources in Burma, pre-election opinion polls within the USDP mentioned the party may possibly face threatens not only from the former ruling party, the National Unity Party (NUP) or former Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), but also other political parties such as the Democratic Party (Myanmar) (DP-Myanmar), the National Democratic Force (NDF), the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP).

The Burmese Junta’s Union Election Commission (UEC) issued Notification No. 98/2010 on September 14. The UEC has released the eight-point restrictions for political parties to canvass on radio and TV.  According to the notification, a political party is permitted to take 15 minutes if it wishes to canvass on radio and the same for TV. A song is also allowed.

The Notification No. 98/2010 says the 37 parties contesting the November 7 election can make known their policy publicly during the allotted 15 minutes that the state-controlled media will carry, but they must avoid anything that offends or destroys the credit of the ruling regime or tarnishes the image of the military.

The NUP have said they will field close to 1000 candidates for the 7 November polls, ranking them one of the strongest contenders: their only real threat is the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is headed by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and will field a similar number of runners. Relations between the NUP and the government remain murky. According to official data from Burma’s Union Election Commision, the NUP is the second largest party contesting the election in terms of numbers of candidates and constituencies, following the USDP which will contest all 1,163 constituencies nationwide.