Myanmar's election commission has approved democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's plans to run for election in April's parliamentary poll.
National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi announced her decision last month, but had to wait for the election commission's official approval.
Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, confirmed to The Guardian that “There is no objection to her nomination and we can say that her candidacy is officially accepted.”
Aung San Suu Kyi will run for a seat representing Kawhmu, a poor district south of Yangon.
It is a significant development in Myanmar's ongoing, and surprising, process of reform. Since coming to power last March, the government has released hundreds of political prisoners, signed ceasefire agreements with ethnic rebel groups, increased media freedoms and eased censorship laws.
United Nations envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana told Channel News Asia that serious challenges remain.
“The upcoming by-elections of April 1 will be a key test of how far the government has progressed in its process of reform. It is therefore essential that they are truly free, fair, inclusive and transparent,” he said at a press conference outlining his preliminary observations.
April's elections and how they are run will help decide whether Western governments will review the sanctions imposed on Myanmar during military rule.
The by-election is being held to fill 48 parliamentary seats. The Guardian notes Myanmar’s 440-seat lower house of parliament is dominated by military appointees and allies of the former military junta, so those elected in April will be strongly outnumbered. According to the new constitution brought in by the junta in 2008, a quarter of the seats in both parliamentary chambers are reserved for the military, the BBC reports.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been under house arrest for most of the last two decades. Her party won an overwhelming victory in the 1990 general election but was never allowed to take power.