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Suu Kyi's party to debate signing up for Myanmar vote

world Updated: Mar 29, 2010 09:50 IST

Senior members of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party in Myanmar meet Monday to debate whether to register for this year's polls -- a move that would force them to oust their detained leader.

According to a new law announced ahead of elections expected by early November in the military-ruled country, the National League for Democracy (NLD) party has less than six weeks to sign up before the vote or face dissolution.

No registered parties can have a serving prisoner in their ranks.

Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest and has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years, said last week that she would "never accept" her party registering because the laws are "unjust".

But she said the party should decide "democratically", according to her lawyer and NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

"I expect that the decision might be reached not to register the party," Nyan Win told AFP before the meeting.

"If we register, it would mean the NLD is doing everything the junta asks it to do. The NLD is working for free democracy. So we cannot accept what the government is asking," he added.

However another party spokesman, Khin Maung Swe, said he was "strongly in favour" of registering for what would be the first election in a decade.

"We should keep the NLD party," he said, suggesting it had no future if it did not sign up for the vote.

"More than 100 representatives from states and divisions will come to the meeting today and I assume that there is a majority of people who do not want to register, but the results will come out after our discussions," he told AFP.

The United States has led international criticism of the new election law, saying it makes a "mockery" of democracy. Critics have dismissed the planned poll as a sham designed to entrench the power of the military which has ruled since 1962.

The new legislation also officially annuls the result of Myanmar's last election in 1990, which the NLD won by a landslide but was never allowed to take power by the junta.

Junta chief Senior General Than Shwe warned Saturday against "divisive" and "slanderous" election campaigning as he presided over the country's final annual military parade ahead of the vote.

The government has not announced a date for the election but a senior official told AFP it would take place by early November.

The vote is part of the government's seven-step "Roadmap to Democracy", including a controversial new constitution, which was enacted after a referendum held days after a cyclone ravaged the country in May 2008.

If the NLD registers, it would have to accept the constitution, which it has previously refused to recognise.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi is one of more than 2,000 political prisoners held in Myanmar, which remains under US and European sanctions over its human rights record.