Fri, Jan 20, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar’s NLD fleshes out its by-election picks


A hip-hop singer and a recently freed political prisoner are among candidates launching bids for seats in Myanmar’s parliament alongside opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her party said yesterday.

A list of 48 candidates released by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) indicates the party plans to contest every seat available in the April 1 by-election.

Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday officially registered for the vote, the first ever that she will personally contest. The polls are seen as a major test of the reform agenda of the new army-backed government, which replaced outright military rule last year.

Sandar Min, part of the “88 Generation” student group that led a failed 1988 uprising against the junta, is to participate after being set free last week in the most significant political prisoner amnesty yet under the new government.

Fellow 88 Generation activist and former political prisoner Phyo Min Thein is also running.

Hip hop singer Zeya Thaw, who is part of the “Generation Wave” youth movement that advocated a boycott of the November 2010 election through subversive street art, poetry and music, is another candidate for the league.

“There will be no promises. The main thing is to encourage people to participate in the political process,” said Phyu Phyu Thin, 40, a candidate and longtime league member.

She said freed “88 Generation” group dissidents, had “become a force for us.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won an election in 1990 by a landslide, while the democracy icon remained under house arrest, but the ruling generals ignored the result.

The number of seats up for grabs in the coming vote are not enough to threaten the resounding majority held by the ruling party, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s participation would add credibility to the legislature.

The Nobel laureate was freed from years of house arrest days after the 2010 election, which was marred by complaints of cheating and easily won by the military’s allies.

A quarter of parliament’s seats are now taken up by unelected military officials while the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is packed with former soldiers, holds about 80 percent of the remainder.

By-election campaigning is set to begin on Feb. 10.

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