Accessibility links

Burma Opposition Members Split to Form New Party

Members of Burma's now defunct opposition party, the National League for Democracy, have split to form a new party and contest this year's controversial elections.

The National League for Democracy confirmed Friday that some members have split off to form a new party to be called the National Democratic Force.

The split came after authorities dissolved the NLD for failing to register as required under the military government's strict election laws.

More than 25 senior members broke ranks with the NLD, and plan to register as the NDF to contest this year's elections.

Nyan Win, the NLD's spokesman, expressed regret at their decision. He says no party participating in the elections can bring democracy to Burma.

"They will make this decision not according to the NLD decision," said Nyan Win. "They should morally abide by this position. But, they use their right and go on. We don't want to comment about this. This is their decision."

Burma's military, which has been in charge for five decades, plans to allow elections for the first time in 20 years. The date, however, has not been announced.

The international community and rights activists have heavily criticized the election preparations as anything but fair.

Under the rules, the NLD had to expel political prisoners from its ranks and take part in the elections. If it did not do so, the government would dissolve it.

That would have meant the NLD expelling its iconic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past two decades, as well as hundreds of other members imprisoned for opposing military rule.

The military-drafted constitution guarantees it a quarter of all parliamentary seats. Scores of officers who have resigned their posts to campaign for the remaining seats are widely expected to remain loyal to the military.

Than Nyein, a spokesman for the National Democratic Force, says its leaders recognize the elections will not be free and fair. However, he says, boycotting the elections as the NLD has chosen would mean the people of Burma could not vote for any democratic party.

"We are participating in the election because it is in line with our future political aim," said Than Nyein. "That is to go on with the democratic struggle. That is the only process that is the only viable way to go on with the democratic struggle."

The NLD won Burma's last elections in 1990 but the military ignored the results.