Since the new constitution was passed in May 2008, the Military government has been adamantly moving the country towards elections. It is determined to see through its Seven Step Roadmap to implement a civil-military democracy with minimal or no influence from the opposition or the international community. Preparations are being made to train election officials, while security precautions have been taken against potential threats to sabotage government plans and the population has been reminded on several occasions to 'make the right choice' when they vote.
Although the military is determined to hold the elections this year, no date has been set and the Political Parties Registration Law and Election Law was only recently released on March 8th. Registration has opened for parties wishing to run in the elections but the time left to campaign is running short. Critics believe that the military is deliberately delaying the process to restrict the time in which democratic groups can prepare to compete in the elections. Furthermore, the Military has put forward its own candidates and supported groups who have already begun campaigning throughout the country.
The main opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, are unwilling to participate in the elections unless the constitution is revised, political prisoners are released and the government holds a tripartite dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic groups. On March 29th the party's CEC members decided not to register to contest in the elections, and will be forced to dissolve after the Election Commissions' party registration deadline on May 7th. The NLD have accused the regime of using elections and the new constitution as a front to further entrench military rule in Burma, and therefore believe the current process should not be endorsed. This sentiment is echoed by the international community and exile groups who have been continuing their efforts to persuade or pressure the government to make the political process in Burma more inclusive.
Several so called 'Third Force' groups that claim to occupy the space between the military and opposition have accepted the elections as the only way forward from the political impasse. These include a diverse range of individuals from veteran politicians, former student activists, former communists, ethnic groups, breakaway NLD groups and business elites and intellectuals inside Burma - however many are alleged to be supported by the junta. Several have registered with the election commission although party activities and campaigns have already taken place over the past year, however some parties have had more success than others due to government restrictions.
Ethnic groups have come under increasing pressure from the government to join the 'legal fold' by running in elections and transforming ceasefire ethnic armed groups into Border Guard Forces under the control of the Burmese army. There are currently mixed reactions with some agreeing to cooperate with the government while others are preparing to resist; disputes have also occurred within groups causing divisions and party breakups. Moreover, the recent attacks on the KNU and MNDAA are signs that the government is determined to gain control of ethnic areas even by force. Tensions have been rising as powerful ethnic armies on the border with China have continued to resist pressures to transform. The region has seen increasing military buildup from ethnic armies like the KIO and UWSA, as well as the Burmese army and Chinese army who are all preparing for an outbreak of war.