Offenders will be barred from standing in the elections, the rules said, and prospective candidates could also face fines and jail terms.

Even before the new regulations, opposition parties and democracy advocates  criticised the national polls as a elaborate sham, aimed at legitimising the military's grip on power.

Ruling generals

Analysts say the military plans to retain its power through the Union of Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is made up of serving ministers who recently retired from the army, and the backing of several smaller parties.

Critics expect the ruling generals to control campaign activities of their opponents to ensure its proxies win most votes.

"We have no interest in the election and we want to give a clear message to the voters that they have the right not to vote in the upcoming elections"

Tin Oo,
NLD vice-chairman

The US, Britain and human rights groups say that elections will be illegitimate unless the military allows thousands of imprisoned political opponents, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to participate.

Suu Kyi has been under arrest for much of the last 21 years and her continued detention was expected to make her ineligible to run for election. 

Her National League for Democracy (NDL) party, which won the country's last national election in 1990 but was prevented from taking power by the military, ceased to exist officially after refusing to register to take part in the November 7 polls.

"We decided to officially boycott the election because we believe that the 2008 constitution and the electoral laws do not guarantee democracy and human rights in the country," Tin Oo, the NLD vice-chairman, told The Associated Press news agency on Thursday.

"We have no interest in the election and we want to give a clear message to the voters that they have the right not to vote in the upcoming elections."

Forty political parties, mostly representing ethnic groups, have registered to run in the elections for the national parliament, senate or one of 14 regional assemblies.

It is still unclear when the official campaign period begins but the Electoral Commission plans to finish its scrutiny of candidates by September 10.