A new party formed by renegade members of Aung Sang Suu Kyi's disbanded Myanmar opposition party opened its headquarters on Sunday but says it now faces the hurdle of finding funding to field candidates.
All candidates contesting military-run Myanmar's first election in two decades must pay the Election Commission 500,000 kyat ($500), more than half a year's salary for the average schoolteacher. The ruling junta has not yet announced a date for elections, scheduled to be held later this year.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which won the last election in 1990 but was denied power by the junta, is boycotting the vote to what it calls unfair and undemocratic election laws and so refused to register.
As a result, it was disbanded, but several weeks later a faction of the party's breakaway members formed the National Democratic Force. Suu Kyi has expressed dissatisfaction through her lawyer with the formation of the new breakaway party.
On Sunday, the National Democratic Force launched balloons into the sky to inaugurate the party's headquarters in an eastern Yangon suburb as about 40 plainclothes police watched the event. The party is one of 39 new political parties and five existing ones that have registered to contest the elections, which critics have dismissed as a sham designed to cement 50 years of military rule.
The "election is an initial step toward achieving democracy. There will be so many variables and we will face a lot of hurdles along the way toward election," the new party's chairman Than Nyein told reporters.
Fundraising is the first challenge, he said, noting that the party wants to field as many candidates as possible in parliamentary constituencies but still needs to acquire sufficient funds. According to new election laws, political parties must pay a registration fee of 300,000 kyat ($300) in addition to the $500 fee per candidate.
Than Nyein said a party office had already been opened in eastern Shan state and several more would be opened around the country.
Than Nyein, 73, was a member of Suu Kyi's central executive committee and won a parliamentary seat in the 1990 election. He served 11 years in prison for holding a party meeting in 1997. He was given a seven-year sentence but was kept in prison four years beyond his term and released in 2008. He is the brother-in-law of former intelligence chief Khin Nyunt.