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Veteran Burmese politician Tin Oo, who held the top position in Burma’s military before joining the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the late 1980s, has been appointed to chair the party as it regroups to contest looming by-elections.
The move means general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi will become deputy-chair. The newly-appointed leaders will travel to Naypyidaw in the coming days to officially register the party after the country’s supreme election body gave it the green light to compete in the polls.
“The two leaders … will meet with the Union Election Commission there to submit our party’s title, flag, insignia, and structure and policies as necessary for the registration,” said spokesperson Ohn Kyaing.
Tin Oo announced last month that he would not challenge for a seat in parliament in the by-elections, when Suu Kyi is widely expected to enter the country’s official political arena for the first time, having been kept under house arrest for more than 15 of the past 21 years.
The 84-year-old told DVB that, as his age, he felt unsuitable for parliament. “I am old. I’d just rather let the younger generations take part [in the parliament] instead of myself.”
A former commander-in-chief of the Burmese army, Tin Oo was forced to retire in 1976 and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison for high treason. Since his release in 1980 under an amnesty, he has spent additional spells in jail and under house arrest before his release last year.
The NLD recently ditched the bamboo hat seal it used in the 1990 elections and instead chose the symbol of the fighting peacock and a star, both of which are associated with revolution – both General Aung San, Suu Kyi’s independence hero father, and the student groups who orchestrated the 1988 uprising have used the fighting peacock.
The exact make-up of the NLD members set to compete in the by-elections is unknown, although it is believed Suu Kyi is in favour of the majority being female. At present only 16 women hold seats in parliament, out of more than 1,000 occupied.
Suu Kyi has suggested she will contest a seat in a rural township south of Rangoon called Kawhmu, although that has not been made official.
Her ban on running in the 2010 elections had prompted the party’s boycott and subsequent dissolution, but amendments to electoral laws made recently have paved the way for the NLD’s return.
Forty-eight seats are up for grabs in Burma’s parliament, although the government is yet to announce a date for the polls. A number of parties have complained that the lack of a date is scuppering their ability to properly prepare, but UEC chairman Tin Aye told the Weekly Eleven journal this week that “all the registered political parties can start their organization tasks”.