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Burma Election Rules Require Opposition Party to Expel Democracy Leader

Burma has published strict rules for historic elections requiring, among other things, that political parties expel any members who are imprisoned, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Rights activists condemn the rules as an attempt to silence the opposition.

Burma's new election rules ban anyone convicted by a court from participating in the elections and require political parties to expel all imprisoned members to remain legal.

Rights activists say the laws appear aimed at the opposition National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been held under house arrest for most of the last two decades.

"This is a very ridiculous election law, party registration law. Actually, this is designed to force NLD party to be abolished, this is designed to force NLD party to dismiss Aung San Suu Kyi and other imprisoned members from the party," says Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

Burma's military government holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, many of them are members of the NLD.

The new rules, published Wednesday, cover political party registration for Burma's first parliamentary elections in 20 years.

The United Nations says Burma must release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, for the elections to have legitimacy.

Aung Din says the new rules are a clear rejection of those demands.

"[U.N. Secretary-General] Ban Ki-Moon also said that without the participation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all key political prisoners the elections will not be inclusive. Now regime answers to his request by issuing this ridiculous election law. So, I hope Ban Ki-Moon stands strong and calls for the international community not to recognize this sham election," said Aung Din.

The registration rules also require allegiance to the controversial 2008 constitution. It reserves a quarter of all parliamentary seats for the military and bars Aung San Suu Kyi from running for election because of her marriage to a foreigner.

The NLD has sought changes to the constitution and its leaders are discussing how to react to the registration rules. The party has not yet decided if it will field candidates.

The election law also forbids civil servants and members of religious orders from joining political parties.

The NLD won Burma's last election in 1990 by a landslide, but the military ignored the results and imprisoned or forced into exile many of the NLD's leaders.

The government has not yet announced a date for the elections.