Myanmar’s military government on Wednesday (Jan 31) announced an easing of election registration rules for political parties, hours ahead of the expiry of a state of emergency in place since a coup three years ago.
The junta, which has vowed to hold an election and return to democratic rule, said it had reduced the minimum threshold for party membership and the percentage of townships where one must operate.
It was not immediately clear why the change was made.
The generals have given no timeframe for holding elections and last year disbanded at least 40 parties for failing to register, among them the former ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party of ex-leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whom the junta has jailed.
The six-month state of emergency, which has repeatedly been extended, is due to expire later on Wednesday.
Citing unaddressed electoral irregularities, the generals seized power on Feb 1, 2021, abruptly ending a decade of tentative democracy and reform, just a few months after a landslide election win by the hugely popular NLD.
The NLD, which said the polls were free and fair, had planned to change the constitution to cut the military out of politics and bring it under civilian control.
The military is facing its biggest challenge since first taking power in the former British colony in 1962, with a youth-led pro-democracy uprising morphing into an armed resistance movement after a lethal crackdown on post-coup dissent.
The junta has used artillery and air strikes to try to suppress militias allied with a shadow government and ethnic minority armies, several of which launched a coordinated offensive in October that stunned the military and dented its battlefield credibility.
Wednesday’s announcement in state media reduced the minimum membership requirement to 50,000, down from 100,000 and said parties must carry out activities in a third of townships, down from half.
Western countries, which have imposed sanctions on the military, have already signalled they will not recognise the election.