Burma approves Suu Kyi's party for election

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, center, arrives at Royal Naypyitaw Hotel in Naypyitaw, Burma, Dec. 23, 2011. AP

YANGON, Myanmar - Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Burma's government on Thursday approved her National League for Democracy to run in upcoming by-elections.

Suu Kyi declined to say yet if she herself will stand in the election when pressed on the issue, but party spokesman Nyan Win said Suu Kyi intends to run.

The highly anticipated by-election set for April 1 will return Suu Kyi's party to mainstream politics after two decades. In 1991 elections, the then-ruling junta refused to accept a NLD victory, and the party boycotted general elections in 2010 because of restrictions that among other things would have prevented Suu Kyi from running.

That vote lead to a nominally civilian government being installed in March 2011 that has eased restrictions on politics and other matters, and leaders have begun engaging Suu Kyi.

She and Nyan Win spoke to The Associated Press in an interview at the Nobel laureate's residence Thursday.

Most of the 48 Parliament seats being contested in the April vote were vacated by MPs who became Cabinet ministers after the first parliamentary session last January.

With the government's recognition of the NLD, anyone can join and support the political party. Nyan Win said the NLD will start accepting new members on Monday.

Political parties must submit their candidate list for the by-election by Jan. 31.

The military is guaranteed 110 seats in the 440-seat lower house, and 56 seats in the 224-seat upper house, and the pro-military party now occupies 80 percent of the remaining 498 elected seats, so the 48 seats up for grabs, even if the NLD wins them all, will not change the balance of power.

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