Myanmar generals resign to contest polls

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 27, 2010 14:30 hrs

Myanmar's defence minister and other top generals resigned their junta and military posts Friday to contest the upcoming polls as civilians, officials said.

Defence Minister General Thura Shwe Mann has retired both his ministerial and army posts to join the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDA), the political wing of the military regime.

General Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, the first secretary of the junta, has also resigned and joined the USDA to contest the Nov 7 election, officials close to the military said.

'Thura Shwe Mann will probably become president after the election,' a source close to the regime told DPA.

Another 10 lieutenant generals have also resigned, although it was unclear whether they would all stand for election or be given new posts. The resignations have led to a major reshuffle within the military establishment which has blocked democracy for the past 20 years.

The 1990 election was won by a landslide by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) headed by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar's junta this time made sure that an opposition party will not win, and even if they did the army can control the legislature through a party-appointed senate.

The USDA is expected to field 1,100 candidates in the polls for lower, upper and regional houses, compared with a total of 500 candidates from the pro-democracy parties.

Non-junta parties have complained the government has not given them enough time to raise the money to register their candidates before an Aug 30 deadline.

The Election Commission said their offices will remain open over the weekend for candidates to register for the country's first elections in 20 years, but this may not be enough for many to raise the $500 registration fee.

Many have complained that the registration fee is prohibitively expensive in a country where the per capita income is less than $600 a year.

About 40 parties have been allowed to contest the polls, which few expect to be free and fair.

Earlier this week, pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi urged her supporters not to vote in the general elections.

Suu Kyi and her disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) party are boycotting the general election.

Suu Kyi is serving an 18-month house detention term that is expected to expire Nov 13, after the election.

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