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Suu Kyi wins approval to run

(Mizzima) – The Burmese Election Commission on Monday formally approved Aung San Suu Kyi to run for a seat in Parliament in the April 1 by-election, a further sign of its acceptance of a more open political atmosphere and another step to national reconciliation.

Aung San Suu Kyi greets her supporters outside the Thanlyin Election Commission in Rangoon Region on Monday, February 6, 2012.  Photo: Mizzima
A spokesperson for her party, the National League for Democracy, which is running 48 candidates for empty seats, said, “There is no objection to her nomination, and we can say that her candidacy is officially accepted.”

Suu Kyi conducted a campaign trip last week to Dawei, an industrial zone in southern Burma, where she spoke to NLD members and was greeted by thousands of supporters along her route. A campaign trip to Mandalay was postponed last week after a failure to obtain a suitable stadium to hold all of her supporters.

Her official candidacy is another step in fulfilling the demands of Western governments who want to see Burma move to a democratic system at a faster pace. Western political leaders look to Suu Kyi as a bellwether to determine the openness of Burma’s military-dominated government. More rapid changes and a free and fair by-election could prompt the West to lift the economic sanctions that were imposed on the country during the military junta's rule. The U.N. human rights envoy for Burma on Monday called for authorities to allow outside international observers to monitor the polling, a request it said is “under consideration.”

Observers, who are still skeptical of Burma’s rapid changes over the past year, note that opposition groups within Parliament will hold only minimal power. Parliament seats are dominated by the state-backed political party, which is heavily weighted by former and current military officers.

However, Suu Kyi is expected to become even more influential as Burma attempts to tackle its No. 1 political problem, which is how to achieve a lasting peace with diverse ethnic groups who have fought the Burman-dominated government for 50 years.

The government engaged individual groups in cease-fire and political agreements, and it’s widely anticipated that Suu Kyi could play a decisive role in the next step, which would involve national-level negotiations that bring the two sides together. However, the obstacles to a quick agreement are significant.

Suu Kyi is seeking a seat representing Kawhmu, a poor district south of Rangoon, which was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

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