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Two EC officials, Indian envoy to observe Myanmar polls

New Delhi, Sun, 01 Apr 2012 ANI

New Delhi, Apr.1 (ANI): The Indian Government has asked two experienced election commission officials and its envoy in Myanmar to observe the elections that are taking place in that country today (Sunday).

India's Ambassador to Myanmar V.S. Sheshadri, Assam Chief Election Commissioner Maninder Singh and Manipur Chief Election Officer P.C. Lawmkunga will be the observers at the elections.

Seventeen parties, including six new ones, will be contesting the by-elections in Myanmar on Sunday, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi standing for parliament for the first time.

All parties are fielding a total of 160 candidates alongside eight independents. Lawmakers appointed to government positions, according to the election commission, have vacated forty-five seats.

Some of the main parties standing in the vote include:

National League for Democracy: Suu Kyi's party was founded in 1988 after a popular uprising against the military junta that left thousands dead.

Two years later the party won elections in a landslide but the results were never recognised by the regime. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time and spent much of the following two decades in detention.

The NLD boycotted a November 2010 election that swept the army's allies to power, saying the rules were unfair, and was stripped of its status as a legal political party. Suu Kyi was released days after the vote.

After a thaw in relations with the regime, the party was permitted to re-register to take part in Sunday's by-elections, and it is contesting 44 of the seats.

Observers believe the regime wants Suu Kyi to win a seat in the polls to give its reformist programme legitimacy and spur the West into easing sanctions.

Union Solidarity and Development Party: The military-backed USDP-which won about 80 percent of the seats available in 2010 -- is contesting all 45 seats on offer but will keep its majority whatever the outcome.

Former Prime Minister Thein Sein and other ministers who retired from their military posts ahead of the last polls formed it. Thein Sein took office as president of the new nominally civilian government in March 2011.

The party inherited considerable financial resources and millions of members from the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a powerful pro-junta organisation that was merged into the USDP.

National Democratic Force: Formed by a group of breakaway NLD members, the NDF's decision to stand in the 2010 elections put it at odds with Suu Kyi, who was opposed to participating because she felt the rules were unfair.

It won a handful of seats in parliament and is fielding 11 by-election candidates.

Shan Nationalities Democratic Party: The party is counting on the support of the Shan, the second-largest ethnic group in Myanmar, in the three constituencies it is contesting.

Popularly known as the White Tiger Party, it is headed by prominent ethnic Shan leader Sai Aik Paung.

It came second behind the NLD in the annulled 1990 election, and is the second-largest party in the lower house of parliament thanks to a strong showing in 2010. (ANI)

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