The political party of Myanmar’s imprisoned opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has been officially dissolved, in yet another blow to the Southeast Asian nation’s democracy, two years after the military staged a coup.
The party, the National League for Democracy, was disbanded by Myanmar’s military-appointed election commission, state media said late Tuesday night. The announcement sets up the stage for an election that will likely keep the junta in power for years to come.
The N.L.D. had described the upcoming election as a sham and said it would not participate. But when the party failed to register with the election commission, Myanmar’s state television, MRTV, said that the N.L.D. — as well as 39 other oppositions parties — would be dissolved.
The N.L.D. clinched landslide victories in three previous elections. In the last election, held in November 2020, the party won 82 percent of the available seats in Parliament. But before the new Parliament could be sworn in on Feb. 1. 2021, the military staged its coup, detaining Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and other top N.L.D. officials.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, has since been given a 33-year prison sentence. The military regime accused her of a range of charges, including corruption and violating the official secrets act. The United Nations and international human rights groups have condemned the prosecutions, calling them politically motivated with the intent of keeping Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi out of power.
After the coup, N.L.D. leaders who escaped arrest, as well as politicians from other parties, formed a new government called the National Unity Government. The organization operates in exile and has not been recognized by any international body. It has also supported armed rebel groups, called the People’s Defense Force, that have engaged in violent clashes against the military, which now struggles to control large swaths of the country.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has long been a thorn in the side of Myanmar’s generals, who see her overwhelming popularity as a threat to military power. She was previously kept under house arrest for nearly 15 years until 2010, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 in recognition of her struggle for democracy.
Although Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is still revered by many in Myanmar, a large swath of the country is now looking beyond her for guidance. In the two years since the coup, a younger, more progressive — and confrontational — generation has emerged, reshaping politics and society.
The junta initially said this year’s general election would be held by August, but in February it announced a six-month extension of the country’s state of emergency, delaying the vote without providing a new date. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the junta, said the military could not guarantee voters’ safety because dozens of townships were not under military control.
Fifty political parties have registered to contest the election and 13 parties have applied to register, according to state media. The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, has urged international organizations and election monitoring groups not to provide technical support in the election and risk lending legitimacy to the regime.
“Instead, they should explicitly denounce what will be a farcical exercise designed to perpetuate military control of Myanmar’s political system,” Mr. Andrews said in a report.