YANGON, MYANMAR — Myanmar’s junta-stacked election commission on Tuesday announced Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would be dissolved for failing to re-register under a tough new military-drafted electoral law, state media said.
The military justified its February 2021 coup with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in 2020 elections won by the NLD, ending a 10-year democratic experiment and plunging the country into turmoil.
In January, it gave political parties two months to re-register under a strict new electoral law ahead of fresh polls it has promised to hold but which its opponents say will be neither free nor fair.
Out of 90 existing parties only 50 had applied to re-register under the new rules, state broadcaster MRTV said. The rest would be dissolved from Wednesday.
Suu Kyi co-founded the NLD in 1988 and won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections that were subsequently annulled by the then-junta.
The NLD carried the torch for democratic aspirations in military-ruled Myanmar and later won crushing victories over military-backed parties in elections in 2015 and 2020.
Its leadership has been decimated in the junta’s bloody crackdown on dissent, with one former lawmaker executed by the junta in the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.
Some leaders in exile had previously called for the party not to re-register under the new rules.
The rules stipulate any party wishing to contest elections nationwide must mobilise at least 100,000 party members within 90 days of registration being granted and open offices in at least half of the country’s townships within 180 days.
Those unable to do so will “lose their status” as a political party.
The rules give no details on how those numbers would be verified across the crisis-racked country, where the military is struggling to crush resistance to its coup and rights groups accuse it of massive intimidation.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party had applied to re-register, according to a junta statement.
Junta vows further crackdown
Last month, the military announced a six-month extension of a two-year state of emergency and postponed elections it had promised to hold by August because it did not control enough of the country for a vote to take place.
On Monday, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing vowed no let up in a crackdown on opponents and told thousands of soldiers at an annual parade that elections would be held, although he did not give a timeline.
“The Myanmar regime is preparing for national elections that, if imposed by force, are likely to be the bloodiest in the country’s recent history,” said Richard Horsey, International Crisis Group’s senior adviser on Myanmar.
“The majority of the population fiercely oppose going to the polls to legitimise the military’s political control, so we will see violence ratchet up if the regime seeks to impose a vote.”
Suu Kyi has been detained since the early hours of the coup in February 2021.
In December, the junta wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of the 77-year-old Nobel laureate, jailing her for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have condemned as a sham.
A spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres said the dissolution of the NLD was “another step in the direction that we would not like to be going,” and called for the release of Suu Kyi.
The putsch sparked renewed fighting with ethnic rebels and birthed dozens of anti-junta “People’s Defence Forces” (PDFs), with swathes of Myanmar now ravaged by fighting and the economy in tatters.
More than 3,100 people have been killed and over 20,000 arrested since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.