Repression continues in Burma. The party of former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which won parliamentary elections by a wide margin in 2015 and 2020, will lose all legal existence, following a decision by a body linked to the military government.

The announcement, emanating from the electoral commission set up by the junta and presented Tuesday, March 28 on the state television MRTV, was justified by technical criteria: the National League for Democracy (NLD) "will see its status as a political party automatically canceled" from Wednesday because it has not fulfilled the conditions to re-register.

The military had justified their February 2021 coup by disputed accusations of massive electoral fraud in the election won by the NLD in 2020, thus closing a parenthesis of ten years of democratic experience and plunging the country into chaos.

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The ruling army has since promised to hold a national election. But in February, the military, which had initially planned to hold elections before August, cited security and logistical reasons for delaying the deadline by another six months in a country plagued by a violent civil conflict that is partly beyond their control.

A country ravaged by fighting, an economy in ruins

The coup reignited fighting with ethnic rebels and spawned dozens of anti-junta "people's defense forces" (PDF) groups. Swathes of the country are ravaged by fighting and the economy is in ruins.

In January, the electoral commission gave political parties two months to re-register under a strict new electoral law drafted by the military, ahead of new polls it has promised to hold but which opponents say will be neither free nor fair.

Of the 90 existing parties, only 50 have applied to re-register under the new rules, state broadcaster MRTV said.

The others will be automatically dissolved from Wednesday, including the NLD, founded by Aung San Suu Kyi in 1988. Some leaders in exile had previously called on their movement not to re-register under the new rules.

This party had managed an electoral tidal wave in 1990, an election annulled by the junta of the time. AungSuu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

33 years in prison for Aung San Suu Kyi

The NLD remained the crucible of democratic aspirations under junta rule and won the 2015 and 2020 elections ahead of military-linked formations.

After the February 2021 coup, its leaders were decimated by the junta's bloody crackdown on dissent. One of its former parliamentarians was even executed, the victim of the first application of the death penalty in the country in decades.

The party's figurehead, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been detained since the early hours of the coup. The 77-year-old is now languishing in prison after being sentenced in a series of closed-door trials to a total of 33 years of deprivation of liberty, which rights groups denounce as a sham.

According to a local organization, more than 3,100 people have been killed in the military crackdown on dissent since the coup, and more than a million people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.

On Monday, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing vowed not to relax the ongoing crackdown on his opponents and reiterated that elections would be held when peace returns, without specifying a timetable.

"The Burmese 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, senior adviser on Burma at the International Crisis Group.

"The majority of the population is fiercely opposed to going to the polls to legitimize political control of the military, and so we will see an escalation of violence if the regime seeks to impose a vote," he added.

With AFP

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