Myanmar's military government has approved a set of laws governing national elections expected this year, starting with the appointment of an election commission.
The government announced the Union Election Commission Law in state-run newspapers on Tuesday, saying it would appoint the five-member commission which will have the final say over the country's first elections in two decades.
Tuesday's law on the election commission is the first to be announced out of five election laws enacted on Monday and signed by Senior General Than Shwe, Myanmar's military ruler.
The law will "form a union election commission to supervise the practising of the Union of Myanmar people's rights to elect or stand for election as well as the political parties", read the two-page announcement.
Members of the commission, who cannot be part of political parties, must be over 50 in age and deemed by the military "to be an eminent person, to have integrity and experience, to be loyal to the state and its citizens".
Power to abolish polls
The commission will be responsible for designating constituencies, compiling voter lists and "supervising political parties to perform in accordance with the law".
The body also has the power for "postponing and abolishing elections of the constituencies where free and fair elections cannot be held due to natural disaster or due to local security situation", the announcement added.
No date has been fixed for the polls, which Myanmar's ruling generals announced in early 2008 as part of its so-called road map to democracy.
But critics and pro-democracy groups fear the polls will only help the military consolidate power.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory in the last election in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power.
Barred from polls
|Critics say Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest is to prevent her participation in the polls [EPA]
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years and is under house arrest at least until November, will not be allowed to run in the elections.
Her NLD party has not yet committed itself to taking part in the polls because it claims the new constitution of 2008 is unfair.
The charter has clauses to ensure that the military retains a controlling say in government and bars Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office.
The NLD has said the election laws enacted on Monday will help it determine whether it will participate.