|Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was interviewed by the election commission to run in upcoming polls [Reuters]|
Myanmar’s election commission has given Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate, the green light to run for parliamentary by-elections.
Monday’s decision adds to a list of recent reforms towards political openness in the country which is emerging from almost a half-century of military rule.
Suu Kyi, who spent most of the last two decades under house arrest, announced her intention last month to run in the April elections, but was waiting for official approval from the commission, which said it had to scrutinise her eligibility.
“There is no objection to her nomination and we can say that her candidacy is officially accepted,” said Nyan Win, spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, adding that the commission would make a formal announcement later on Monday.
A nominally civilian government took office last March.
The April election is being held to fill 48 parliamentary seats vacated by politicians who were appointed to the cabinet and other posts.
Even if Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party wins all 48 seats, it will have minimal power.
The 440-seat lower house of parliament is heavily weighted with military appointees.
But a victory would be historic for Suu Kyi who would have a voice in parliament for the first time after decades as the country’s opposition leader.
Her party won a sweeping victory in the 1990 general election, but the country’s military rulers refused to honour the results.
Suu Kyi will run for a seat representing Kawhmu, a poor district south of Yangon, where villagers’ livelihoods were devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
The new government has surprised even some of the country’s toughest critics by releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing ceasefire deals with ethnic rebels, increasing media freedoms and easing censorship laws.
Myanmar’s government hopes the rapid changes will prompt the West to lift economic sanctions that were imposed on the country during the military junta’s rule.
Western governments and the United Nations have said they will review the sanctions only after gauging whether the April polls are carried out freely and fairly.