Friday, 15 November 2019

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Ban on Suu Kyi rallies is lifted

(Mizzima) – Within hours after the main Burmese opposition party publicly accused a government minister of hampering its campaign activities, the military-dominated government lifted a ban on rallies by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Campaign manager Nyan Win at press conference on Monday at NLD office in Rangoon . Photo: MizzimaThe Union Election Commission (UEC) said on Monday evening a ministerial order from the sports minister restricting campaign rallies in stadiums had been lifted, after the National League for Democracy Party complained in a press conference that the campaign process was not free and fair.

Election commission officials contacted the NLD and said the ban on the use of sports stadiums and grounds, which had been denied in several instances in recent weeks, was no longer in effect.

"It's a very significant change,'' campaign manager Nyan Win told Agence France Press. ''We are still hoping for fair play."

In the NLD press conference on Monday, the sports minister, Tint Hsan, was named as the official responsible for the ban. He is a member of the government-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The fairness of the April 1 by-election vote for 48 seats in various levels of the Parliament, mostly in the Lower House, is being studied carefully by the international community as a test of the newly elected government’s promise to hold a free and fair election. Western governments have said Suu Kyi’s judgment about the election’s fairness would be decisive in whether or not further sanctions are lifted on the military-dominated government.

Campaign manager Nyan Win earlier had accused the country's biggest party, the government-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), of making promises of infrastructure and electricity upgrades that were tantamount to vote buying.

He also said the government has prevented the NLD from holding election rallies in a village in Kachin State, citing security concerns. He said the restrictions were a threat to free and fair elections.

"So why do they hold by-elections in a constituency where they cannot ensure security?" Nyan Win asked.

Suu Kyi’s campaign has attracted huge crowds and her party is expected to win many seats in Parliament, but all opposition parties combined will count for a small fraction of lawmakers. Supporters say the opposition’s power will be a matter of influence more than votes, and how successful it might be would be measured by how many USDP lawmakers support its programs.

The current government is made up largely of former generals and businessmen, and Suu Kyi participation in the April 1 by-election is seen by some as a means for it to gain credibility and the lifting of Western sanctions. The U.S. and E.U. have already lifted some sanctions, but are awaiting the result of the election before removing more significant sanctions.

Suu Kyi has said she trusts President Thein Sein, and believes that he is working sincerely to change the direction of the government, but much remains to be done to ensure the government is following his policies, especially at the lower-levels of government where change is slow to come. Observers note that there are hardline elements that remain protective of their power and privileges, both in the government and the military.

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