Sunday, June 25, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Fury over NLD candidate list continues to spark protests

National League for Democracy supporters furious over the candidate list are planning on staging larger protests in Pakokku, even as local party members are expelled.

Demonstrators in Yangon demand the NLD reconsider its state and regional candidate lists which were released on July 31 and August 2. Photo: EPADemonstrators in Yangon demand the NLD reconsider its state and regional candidate lists which were released on July 31 and August 2. Photo: EPA

“We want the NLD to know what the people here want, and what they oppose,” said Ko Nyi Nyi, who works in the Pakokku commodity exchange centre.

Hundreds of Pakokku NLD members have demonstrated against the central committee’s selection of candidates they say are not wanted, but have been imposed anyway. Protesters reportedly toppled the signboard outside party headquarters in the Magwe Region town, and some have threatened a “strike” against the party.

Unyielding to the popular demands, the NLD expelled 10 leading party members in Pakokku for allegedly breaking party rules, and made no changes to the town’s contestants.

Party spokesperson U Tun Tun Hein told The Myanmar Times yesterday that “the punishment fit the offence”, but declined to furnish more details, saying he was travelling. The Myanmar Times was unable to contact any other member of the central executive committee.

Pakokku NLD members say that the central committee is ignoring the grassroots, while a committee member in Yangon, who requested anonymity, criticised the “lack of democracy in the party”.

“The NLD needs to reform its own central executive committee,” the member said.

Daw Kyay Hmon, former vice chair of the Pakokku district NLD, said she had been expelled from the party for giving a garland of roses to the protesters. She did not take part in the protest itself.

“I supported the protesters out of concern about the image of the NLD in Pakokku,” she said, adding that the party should proceed with great care.

“I supported the NLD throughout the period of military rule. Now they have kicked out many strong members, which weakens the party here,” she said. “I feel very sorry about this.”

The Pakokku township NLD office put forward four candidates, with another four as suggested alternates. But the central committee rejected all eight, apparently for technical reasons, according to U Pike Ko, the current NLD MP for Pakokku.

In response to the outburst of dissatisfaction, NLD head Daw Aung San Suu Kyi advised voters not to unduly focus on the individual running in their constituency, but to instead think of a vote for any NLD member as a vote for change.

But even senior-level party members have expressed discomfort with the firm overruling of locals’ preferred representative.

U Htay Maung, a regional-level NLD official, closed his office, which is located in his house, after angry protesters ripped out the party signs.

“The NLD has lost 10 strong supporters, who risked their lives only to have the party kick them out,” he said.

Political analyst U Than Soe Naing said mismanagement of the candidate selection issue could prevent the NLD from winning a landslide victory in November.

While the NLD announced 30 changes to the voter list, the amendments were not made in response to popular dissent in Pakokku, Hlegu or Mingalar Taung Nyunt townships, according to the party.

“We have made replacements as there are resignations and errors in the list. Most of them are caused by resignations,” central committee member U Win Myint told The Myanmar Times.

U Kyaw Win Aung, one of the 10 Pakokku members dismissed by the NLD for protesting, said yesterday that he has lost confidence in the party.

“In the past, the party’s leaders always said they want democracy and the party stands for democracy. But I was surprised by this,” he said. “If the party doesn’t listen to the members’ voices it is not democracy, it is only dictatorship.”