Burma's Election Commission has given opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the green light to run for parliamentary byelections, another step toward political openness in a country emerging from nearly a half-century of iron-fisted military rule.
Suu Kyi announced her intention last month to run in the April elections but was waiting for official approval from the commission, which said it had to scrutinize her eligibility. That approval came Monday.
A spokesman for Suu Kyi's party said the commission approved her candidacy and would make a formal announcement later Monday.
"There is no objection to her nomination and we can say that her candidacy is officially accepted," Nyan Win said.
A nominally civilian government took office last March. The new government has surprised even some of the country's toughest critics by releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing ceasefire deals with ethnic rebels, increasing media freedoms and easing censorship laws.
The government of Burma, also known as Myanmar, hopes the rapid changes will prompt the West to lift economic sanctions that were imposed on the country during the military junta's rule. Western governments and the United Nations have said they will review the sanctions only after gauging whether the April polls are carried out freely and fairly.
The April election is being held to fill 48 parliamentary seats vacated by lawmakers who were appointed to the cabinet and other posts.
Even if Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party wins all 48 seats, it will have minimal power. The 440-seat lower house of Parliament is heavily weighted with military appointees and allies of the former junta.
But a victory would be historic for Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who spent most of the last two decades under house arrest.
She would have a voice in parliament for the first time after decades as the country's opposition leader. Her party won a sweeping victory in the 1990 general election but the junta refused to honour the results.
Suu Kyi will run for a seat representing Kawhmu, a poor district south of Yangon where villagers' livelihoods were devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.