Wed, Apr 28, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Ministers to quit Myanmar military to run in election

REUTERS , YANGON, MYANMAR

At least 20 ministers in Myanmar’s ruling junta will resign from the military this week to become civilian politicians ahead of this year’s election, a government official said yesterday.

“So far as I heard, about 20 ministers ... and some deputy ministers will officially give up their military positions effective this week,” a government official told reporters by telephone from the capital, Naypyitaw.

“However, they will remain in their present Cabinet positions for some time,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Among those due to resign from their army posts will be Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein, the official said.

The move means the ministers could potentially take parliamentary seats not included in the 25 percent quota allocated to serving armed forces personnel.

The general election, a date for which has not yet been set, has been widely dismissed as a move by the military to extend its five-decade hold on power by creating a facade of civilian rule.

Under the 2008 Constitution passed in a disputed referendum, the armed forces chief will still be the country’s most powerful figure and key ministries will remain under military control.

Analysts say the legislature will act only as a rubber stamp for the military’s policies and will be dominated by the army and its civilian proxies, with independent lawmakers in the minority and largely powerless.

“It’s just part of the military’s attempt to secure its grip on state power in the post-election period,” a retired senior civil servant said of the resignations from the military. He also requested anonymity.

So far, 19 organizations have requested permission to form political parties to run in the election. Five have been given the go-ahead, most of them believed to be close to the junta. Only four of the existing 10 parties have applied. The deadline for registration is May 6.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the last election in 1990 by a landslide but was denied the chance to rule, announced last month it would boycott this year’s polls.

It complained the election rules were unjust and would exclude most of its top politicians, including detained Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the charismatic NLD leader who analysts say heavily influenced the decision.

The league said it would continue to fight for the Burmese, even after its dissolution.

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