Myanmar sets provisional date for key 2015 polls

Myanmar sets provisional date for key 2015 polls
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

YANGON - Landmark elections in Myanmar that could propel opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party into office have been provisionally scheduled for late next year, electoral officials said Tuesday.

The 2015 general election, seen as a key test of Myanmar's democratic reforms, is due to be held in the final week of October or the first week of November, Union Election Commission chairman Tin Aye said at a meeting with political parties in Yangon.

He said the election "needs to be free and fair" so that "smart and good people" would be installed in parliament, adding that the exact date would be confirmed next August.

Myanmar authorities have promised the vote will be the freest in the country's modern history after the military ceded direct power to a quasi-civilian government three years ago.

President Thein Sein's government has been lauded by the international community for a range of dramatic reforms that have seen most Western sanctions lifted.

But rights groups have raised concerns that a number of prosecutions of journalists and activists this year are a sign that the country could be backsliding.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is expected to win a major slice of the legislature in the 2015 vote.

The party won almost every seat available in 2012 by-elections that saw the democracy veteran become an MP for the first time.

Parliament will select a president following the vote.

But 69-year-old Suu Kyi, who spent more than a decade under house arrest, is currently barred from taking the top job by the constitution.

Under the charter, anyone whose spouse or children are foreign nationals cannot become president - the Nobel laureate's late husband was British, as are her two sons.

Many believe the clause was crafted specifically to thwart her political rise.

Tin Aye, a former military general, said authorities were running trials to computerise voter lists to help avoid fraud.

The previous general election in 2010 was marred by accusations of widespread cheating, as well as by the absence of the NLD which boycotted the poll. Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest just days after the vote.

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