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Aung San Suu Kyi Confirms Run for Burmese Parliament

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has confirmed that she will run for parliament in the country's highly anticipated April by-elections.

A spokesman for her National League for Democracy party said Tuesday the Nobel laureate will compete for a seat in her home district outside of Rangoon.

Last week, the government approved the NLD to participate in the April 1 elections, marking its return to mainstream politics after two decades. But it had been unclear whether Aung San Suu Kyi herself would compete for a seat.

The campaign marks the first time the pro-democracy leader has pursued political office. Her party won a landslide victory in 1990, but the ruling military government prevented it from assuming power. Aung San Suu Kyi spent much of her time since then under house arrest, gaining her freedom in 2010 as the junta agreed to parliamentary elections late that year.  

The NLD boycotted general elections in November 2010 because of restrictions that prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from running. That vote installed a nominally civilian government that has made a series of reforms, including beginning a dialogue with opposition groups.

Nicholas Farrelly, a Burma analyst at the Australian National University, says the NLD's decision to compete in the upcoming elections reflects a significant change in Burma's political climate.

"Since the elections that were held back in November 2010, so much has changed in the politics of Burma, and I think we see that so clearly with this recent effort by Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters to become active players once again in the country's mainstream political system," said Farrelly.

Farrelly warns that the outcome of the upcoming elections may not significantly impact government policy. But he says it still represents a symbolic step in Burma's path to democracy.

"To have Aung San Suu Kyi sitting in the National Assembly would be a real turn for the better," said Farrelly. "For the country, it would perhaps show that some of the vitriol and confrontation and bad blood which has tended to affect the country's politics is starting to be forgotten, and with that, there may be more opportunities for more compromise and for some kind of reconciliation."

The elections are intended to fill 48 parliamentary seats vacated by those who have since become government ministers. But the number of seats available is not enough to threaten the resounding majority held by the ruling military-backed party.

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